Using Storytelling with Students as the Tellers

The first reaction that I receive from teachers when I talk to them about storytelling is that they think of themselves as the storyteller or students retelling a story that is memorized. What if the stories told are by the students only and these stories are their stories? I am sure we can easily imagine our time with our students running rampant with stories that engage other students, but not necessarily how we desire for everyone to interact.

It would be much better is we set the stage by utilizing these ideas:

  • Stories relate to a sense of community. Since our students belong to the class community, they build relationships with each other. There is also a culture that exists in this community that reflects the students.
  • We can use stories to talk about life experience. Students have stories that come from the events of their lives. They are natural born storytellers, especially if given the opportunity to share what they know. When they retell their stories, they may discover new insights or possibilities.
  • If we want to use storytelling with students, we must set the parameters for the best possible outcomes for learning.  To begin we must be clear about what is expected of them as they explore a topic and find their relational stories. Asking a question that sets the tone and acts as a prompt is an excellent way to do this.
  • Reminding them how to listen to others as they listen to stories is important as well. They should not interrupt the storyteller. Also, they should not think about their story while listening to someone’s story. Finally, they should try to think of a title that they would like to give to the person’s story that they are listening to. Active listening is engagement and helps to maintain community and adds to the culture of the group.
  • Ask yourself, how much time do you have to devote or allow for the storytelling process to occur during your lesson. Should you break students up into large or small groups? Should students work with only a partner? Do you want students to share a few stories with all of the students when you come back together? If so, how will you determine which stories are told. Remember that adults are able to listen to about 4-5 stories in a row. For children, the number will be less.
  • Ideally, the storytelling will help students to process what they know. Schedule time for students to talk about the stories they hear. The conversations will help solidify the theme that is being examined. New learning will become more apparent through the discussion making it easier for students to identify what they are studying.
  • Selecting topics for storytelling are best chosen when they represent successes or joy. The goal here is to encourage students to think about what we want them to focus on. If sad or depressing stories are the focus, we may offer opportunities for students to not experience success.
  • Storytelling works well with topics that require the building of knowledge. When students engage in telling stories that lead to them seeing how the puzzle pieces fit together, an excitement of understanding may break out. Synergy can be created leading to better understanding of the topic.

When storytelling is combined with students who are telling about what they know and the topic that we are attempting to help students understand, the resulting stories may enrich the learning and the community to which the students belong. A larger view of the world is embraced. Relationships grow. Storytelling may be the key to success for some topics that we teach where we have not experienced that success before with students.

Look Who’s Telling Stories!

I found an interesting read concerning storytelling and the business world. The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) surveyed 345 of its members to find out how business people use storytelling in their organizations to encourage employees. Since it is common for PowerPoint, newsletters and memos to be used for communicating information such as facts and statistics, storytelling may be incorporated to reach the intended audience.

Storytelling provides a way to share information in motivating ways. Stories bring forth emotions. They are less structured (unlike a bulleted list). They help listener’s connect through their prior experiences and make associations.

The largest obstacle found to using stories is lack of time to collect stories and resources from whom the stories may be derived.

The article was very interesting. It offered additional information as to how stories connect people and story strategies for the business world.

If we are teaching future children who will participate in the business community as adults, should we not also teach them the importance of storytelling? Allowing them to share true stories that are discovered through interviewing someone would be a good experience for students’ preparation and participation in good communication practices.


Ioffreda, A., & Gargiulo, T. (2008). Who’s telling stories? Communication World, 25(1), 37-39.

School Library Web Sites

It’s that time again: Reviewing school library web sites.

Are school library web sites changing to meet the needs of their users? Over time, I have observed more interactive sites that are attractive. The process of change has been slow, yet steady.

Many of the cute clip art decorations have disappeared. Replacing it are actual photos of users in action within the local facilities of the school library.

Designated areas for research links, reference databases, school-related information, suggested reading, the online catalog, professional development or links for teachers, and miscellaneous are now regular features.

The virtual school library is coming alive. Students and parents have the opportunity to access school resources from outside the school walls to continue the learning experience.

What will be interesting is to watch for what is to come for school library web site content.

A New School Year Means Turning Over a New Leaf

With the advent of a new school year, I am working on turning over a new leaf for this blog.

My professional reading habits have changed since I last posted here.

Now, I find myself reading from my Kindle, reading more journal articles, reading tons of email, reading more web sites and wikis, fewer blogs, less microblogging, and many more student research papers. It is a pleasure to read the students’ work. They have wonderful ideas and are working towards their goals.

I rely on groups to help me locate the best of blogs, web sites, and wikis that I read. I have found some of the best groups for this are Diigo groups and professional listservs. Both of these have people who share interests and expertise in the areas of my concerns. They help to build and share information sources. I share these with my students by passing along the contributions.

I also generate web sites and wikis that contain information for my students. I wonder if this information would benefit anyone else. This would be a good analysis for me to do when I step back and look at the web sites and wikis. If I am able to adjust them to make them beneficial outside of my classroom and maintain the integrity we need for our work, then I could contribute to a larger community on the Internet. Must do.

A new school year sometimes offers new beginnings. Giving and sharing in the larger community sometimes offers new relationships. Wow! I would really like that. I am ready to get started!

Acceptable Use Policies

Having a good Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for Internet Use and enforcing it regularly are important for your school. In fact, according to Fitzer and Peterson (2002) you can have an AUP, enforce it, and not need a filter if you are using software that activates when violations occur to notify of the offense. (I would like to see this software in action!)

In a previous post, I expresses concern over privacy, authentication and access for library systems. For an AUP to work, the network must be able to identify who has access to the Internet. Should this extend to the library’s OPAC?

Data trails and clickstreams may be captured and saved for violators using the software that activates when the violation occurs. All other data trails and clickstreams would not need to be collected and saved.

What about the “ones that get away and don’t get caught?” That is where responsibility and diligence come in. The school community should not be ignorant of what is going on in their libraries or on their computers. The link provided above to Fitzer and Peterson’s article provides some excellent ideas to help the school community prepare, prevent, and handle violations of the AUP.

Traditions in Education

With so many changes occurring in the educational world, I am wondering what are the traditions that we follow in education.

Scheduling, managing, grading/testing for advancement, subjects taught — these are traditionally the same or increased in some way to get the most out of what is intended.

Along the way, we have lost some things, too. Should we bring them back in a better way?

Technology, though, has altered the way education may be delivered and content interacted with.

Might we collectively brainstorm other ways to engage students? Technology need not be the only way that change comes. What traditions are worth keeping? What would be worth adding?

White Teacher

In the classrooms that I have been in recently, it is apparent that as a white teacher, I represent the few white students in that school. Reading White Teacher by Vivian Gussin Paley helps me reflect.

Paley reminds me that it is easier to ignore a problem when I am uncomfortable because it may be an issue of race rather than thinking of it as a problem and handling it as a problem. Rather than recognize skin color because I am attempting to be color blind, I could create a larger problem. Also, a problem could be related to or thought of as a social/cultural issue as well.

Personally, I have found that mannerisms are different for people across the country regardless of skin color. Someone from Massachusetts will speak and possibly react somewhat differently to a situation than someone from Texas. Once we recognized and acknowledged the differences, we were able to work through them.

Paley presents several instances where she was reminded that she could solve problems with children of all colors and with children who have disabilities. She built upon her repertoire of successes. Several factors that helped were staff development for areas where she needed help; talking with colleagues with whom she had rapport; and reflection.

Common Themes of 2.0

I am attending the Internet@Schools West Conference and Internet Librarian 2008 Conference (Information Today) where the keynote speakers and the workshop presenters are sharing themes. These themes are crossing the boundaries of business and education. They are re-shaping the global society. Take a look at the following list to make a thoughtful decision for yourself if you are uncertain:

  • Blogs have the ability to be searched and mined for vital information, such as to provide answers and solutions
  • The “wisdom of crowds” has presence even if it is not always the correct strategy at the moment
  • The knowledge view is on “social;” i.e., knowledge sharing, where people participate, experts are located, ideas are debated and innovation is key.
  • We need less control over content in the way that content is defined or expressed so that the effort may be collaborative using 2.0, free shareware, that can be placed in a password, protected environment.
  • We should step back and ask, “How can I reach you?” and begin to reach out.
  • Have more forums for participation rather than complaint boxes.
  • Know that there are less people who are experienced in social networking and expect mistakes and to learn from them.

These themes are not new. They are becoming more of a lived reality that can become easily accessible if we allow and encourage them now. If we do not, someone else will. This is what i am hearing. Is this what you see?


This particular vlog by Howard Rheingold contains an entry on vernacular that really set the pace for why I will want to add professional vlogs to my “reading” list. With time limited as to how much I can actually spend on professional development, I must select carefully the materials that I am willing to devote my energies to for growth. Even though I am considering this vlog as part of my growth plan, I must not give up print. I have found that print materials, especially scholarly journals, add a richness and thickness to my personal development that other types of materials do not.


Recently, my students completed an assignment on Intellectual Freedom. Several of them focused on self-censorship as a form of censorship within schools that might limit a collection’s development to encompass a wide range of reading materials to meet the needs of all students of a school’s diverse population. A sound selection policy that has been set in place by the district based on the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights interpreted for the school library is most beneficial.

With professional reading, teachers and school librarians should be careful to not self-censor themselves by limiting their selections. Reading widely and broadly from professional, peer-reviewed sources is a good start. It is far too easy to go to the bookstore and pick up something that might be what we think we need without asking appropriate questions, such as, “Is this only someone’s opinion or has this person actually used this technique with students like the ones I have in my classroom?” We might gravitate to pieces written by people who appeal to us rather than people who have the answers. Also, we might steer away from research because it is not as appetizing to read as the narratives that we prefer. There might be other reasons for self-censoring that I am not including here, but I believe that the reader understands the point that I am making.

One way to avoid this is by taking charge of the reading that one wants to do by defining what one wants or needs to read. I have found that a plan helps. Action research, also known as teacher research, is very helpful in defining a problem and setting goals that lead to information seeking and problem solving skills with accountability. It seems to me that the United States is behind other countries in conducting this type of research that improves teaching and helps individuals answer their own questions in a professional manner.  However, I believe that teachers and school librarians are taking matters into their own hands and are moving into 2.0 without the help of an administrative task force to guide them. By doing so, they are in effect beginning to evaluate themselves, reflect, and seek out more appropriate sources without resulting to self-censorship.