Writing from experience – writing from your life II

When and how to use a story in teaching

Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”

Native American Proverb

Storytelling is one of the oldest methods of teaching, and also one of the most effective.  If you think about it, this is how we teach children about morals and safety in our daily life.  Every childhood has moral stories that were told for an educational purpose:  Aesop’s fables are a good example.  Take for instance the story of The Boy who Cried Wolf, a salutary lesson for children who might be tempted to exaggerate the truth or play tricks on adults.


It is not only at home that storytelling is used for teaching. If you remember fondly one of your teachers from primary or secondary school, it is probably because they engaged you and interested you with stories that illustrated what they were teaching. A concept was introduced, then an anecdote was told to illustrate the concept.  Storytelling brings emotion and imagination to the learning process, thus helping us to understand, relate, and remember.

In management, when leaders are looking for employee engagement, they use the idea of 4 Is: Interest, Instruct, Involve, Inspire.  This can also relate to digital storytelling, and it can be a very useful tool to reflect on storytelling for teaching – and most especially teaching online, where it can be more difficult to gauge the reaction of the audience/the students.

These 4 Is are the I of the first letter of these 4 words:





Working with memory

In SenGuide, you will be teaching an area of your expertise, of your passion.  This will be intimately linked to your own life, which means that your storytelling will borrow from memoir writing at times.

Memoir writing does not mean writing down everything that happened in your life. This would be nearly impossible, probably a bit boring, or ethically dubious.  In writing memoir, stories from your life, you choose to shine a light on one specific area of your life.  If you look in libraries and bookshops, you will find many examples of memoirs of childhood, memoirs of illness, memoirs of work.  In SenGuide, we will engage you to shine a light on events in your life which sparked a passion, which built an expertise, and to share those with your students/your audience.  In preparation for Unit 3, we will suggest some reflection and life story work:

Excercises and prompts (write a short text on one or more of those prompts)

  • Do you remember a story about morals or safety that was told to you as a child, or did you tell your children such a story?
  • For an expert topic of food (we are all experts at eating…), find a memory of a favourite food in childhood, or of cooking food for the first time, and write that story.
  • For an expert topic of building/carpentry, can you remember building or making a toy (a sledge, a farm, a fort)
  • For an expert topic of learning and education, write the story of your first day at school.


Course: How to write your first own online module

Course instructors