tlg ink: Ten Stories to Tell in the Writing Classroom
I sometimes feel as if I’ve said the same basic thing dozens of times, and yet students still don’t remember the details later when they need them. No matter how many ways I try to explain, the concept just doesn’t stick with students. They hear me, but they don’t recall the information later when they need it.
I’ve found a useful reminder of one of the best strategies to use in these situations. In How to Write Posts People Will Remember on the Problogger blog, Darren Rowse talks about what sticks with his readers. They don’t remember specific strategies or guidelines. They remember stories, humor, and personal observations or feelings. As Rowse explains, “While informational posts are important as they help people on a day-to-day basis, it's the more heartfelt posts that create memories for people, and make them feel a connection to you as a blogger.”
Stories can provide that same kind of connection in the writing classroom. When I tell a story about a writing strategy, I’ve found that students are more likely to remember (and later try) that strategy. Infuse those stories with some humor and personal reflections, and you can bring what seem like commonplace writing strategies to life.
I’m not the only one to notice the value that stories can bring to the classroom. Holly Pappas posted earlier this fall on Bits about the benefit of telling students how she would fulfill her own writing assignments. Her examples include personal stories that give students examples filled with concrete details. You’ll find more examples in Ryan Cordell’s “Profs Are People, Too: Hacking the Classroom Bringing In the Personal” on ProfHacker, which Holly mentions in her post. Naturally, the value of storytelling isn’t limited to the classroom. Read the comments on Ryan’s piece for some examples of storytelling across the curriculum, and for some storytelling in the literature classroom, read Riders to the Sea by Lee A. Jacobus on Lit Bits (Bedford/St. Martin’s blog on Ideas for Teaching Literature and Creative Writing).
So what stories can you tell in the classroom? Tell students stories about your own experiences as a writer. Some stories will be more compelling than others. Just be sure that you’re telling a relevant story and that you are candid about your experiences as a writer. Any of these topics could help writers learn or better understand a new writing strategy or technique:
Besides their obvious focus on your personal experiences as a reader and writer, all these stories provide models for students. They show students what the life of a writer looks like, and, ideally, lay the challenges and flaws bare for students to see. As I see it, sharing personal stories in the classroom is one of the times that telling (storytelling that is) actually is showing.