The Power of Storytelling in Teaching- Zahra Razavi


Remembering the different components of the human body’s response to an infection was challenging to recall at first, especially when there were so many other similar responses to confuse it with. However, when the bacteria were thought of as intruders from another kingdom trying to take over the castle, the macrophages were thought of as guards who inform the king and queen of the intrusion, and the neutrophils were thought of as the kingdom’s army who defeat the intruders and saved the kingdom, remembering the response wasn’t as challenging.

 Story telling is a powerful learning tool. We have used stories as a way to convey information and to share experiences for centuries. Many of the important life lessons we were taught as children were told to us through stories and fairy tales. Stories can arouse emotions in the listener, motivate and inspire them.  The structure of a story can connect information together meaningfully and make the purpose of each piece of information clear. Stories also stimulate the listener to relate the new information being conveyed with their own previous experiences, which can greatly increase recall abilities and understanding of the new concept being presented. Instructors can see many positive effects from giving a lesson the structure of a story.  Although it may be challenging to create a story from simple facts, the positive outcome can make it well worth the effort.

 Seemingly unconnected data can be reshaped into something meaningful when given the structure of a story. Every lesson can benefit from a story structure. Giving a lesson a basic structure of having a situation laid out (a beginning), having a challenge presented (the middle), and reaching a new truth (the end), will give the information presented throughout the lesson significance, and will make the lesson much more memorable. Lectures in which the connections between the information being presented are not clear, and in which the significance of the data is not evident, are hard to understand, frustrating to listen to, and challenging to remember.  As a biology undergraduate student, I know that I have spent numerous occasions memorizing information which I could not see the relevance of, and I was most likely forget as soon as I was done writing my final exam.

 Our understanding of a concept can increase if the concept is presented in the context of a story, because a story context stimulates our minds to try to relate the new information to our own personal experiences. Using the structure of a story activates the areas in the brain that makes the story feel like the listener’s own idea and experience. The greater the amount of neural pathways we have to connect to a new concept, the easier it is to recall that concept and therefore make use of it.

 Even though it would be difficult to teach every lesson through storytelling, it would be vital to a lesson to have a story in it to grab the student’s attention and or to drive the most important part of the class home. Even if we can’t teach everything through accessing the imagination we can help the students remember the most imperative points of the lesson through storytelling.


Photo by Simply Shar♥n; retrieved from Creative Commons; license agreement