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Don't Think Storytelling Is A Crucial Skill? Just Turn On The TV
If there was any doubt that stories matter, look no further than advertising. The company that makes most of our trash bags uses the tagline, "Every bag tells a story." On the opposite side of the spectrum is a large data visualization firm. Their motto is "Data has a story to tell. We give it a voice."
From "stories" on social media to companies trying to tie their products to a narrative, storytelling matters. It brings a human side to things that might otherwise be opaque or abstract, dull, or even difficult to understand. So, it looks like the power to tell stories isn't just for the campfire or the remnants of the oral historian. As a skill, it could help our students get all kinds of jobs.
The Moth is a public radio program that allows participants to tell stories. Their teacher section has a curriculum you can sign up for to support teaching storytelling in the classroom. To get things moving, check out those ubiquitous TED Talks. They have entire playlists to inspire you and your students.
And stories aren't just written for books or for the screen. Every organization and media personality seems to have a podcast today. And some writers, like famed author of The Big Short and MoneyBall (Michael Lewis), are turning their next work into a podcast instead. KQED Teach has a ton of courses and lesson plans, including podcasting with youth radio. They also have a course on telling stories visually, combining cinematography and photography with story telling. Possibly the most famous storytelling podcast available through public radio is This American Life. They have an entire page of websites to support you and your students with radio narratives but also some industry tips for students looking to make a career of this stuff.
But storytelling doesn't just apply to the humanities. In an increasingly data-driven world, all manner of organizations need to be able to explain what their numbers mean and need to be able to do this in an engagning way. As discussed earlier, marketing is moving foremost into storytelling, so much so that even Forbes argues that it is essential. Advertising has become a high-stakes business with the advent of internet, social media, and streaming services marketing. Here is a handy guide for marketing with storytelling which could also be adapted to other curriculum.
Stories clearly aren't just yarns we sping to get us out of trouble. And it certainly is something more than your grandfather's reminicenses of the "way it used to be." Although, the biography is still the best selling history book. Students could benefit from early learning lessons introducing the genre or how to use biographical writing 10 different ways in your classroom. With the increasingly personalized nature of everything in our world, possibly the most powerful thing is a story.