Illinois Loop
Your guide to education in Illinois
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The Illinois Loop website is no longer updated on a a regular basis. However, since many of the links and articles have content and perspectives that are just as valid today, we are keeping this website online for parents, teachers and others researching school issues and solutions.
Broken links:If you encounter links that no longer lead to the desired article, it's still often possible to retrieve them. Most of the linked items include a sentence or more from the original. Copy a section of that text, and type it into Google surrounded by quotes. More often than not, Google will find the article at a revised location.
-- Kevin C. Killion, writer, editor and webmaster



    Q. "Story?" Why is "story" a page on the Illinois Loop?

    A. Because a story is an extremely powerful technique, one of many great tools for effective teaching that relies upon learning-centered, teacher-directed education instead of only wheel-spinning "discovery".

    In addition to its capacity for conveying substantive content, storytelling is one of the most contemplative, character-building and mood-setting components of the student's schedule. This teacher-centered activity helps get the kids quiet (a precursor to reading or other quiet activities), and inspires them with tales of real-life heroes, adventurers and discoverers as well as fabulous fictional characters.

  • One parent writes,
    My son consistently responds well to material presented as a story. He's always been much more interested in a narrative about a turning point in history or a biography of a scientist than he ever was about a purely fact-based organization of the same topic. Of course, there is no reason that a story can't have rich detail; a story is just a different delivery vehicle.
  • WHY are stories so powerful?
    WHEN can stories be most beneficially used?
    HOW do you tell a story in an effective and informative way?
    Read this...
    Ask the Cognitive Scientist: The Privileged Status of Story by Daniel T. Willingham, American Educator, Summer 2004, American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Excerpts:
        "Stories are easy to comprehend and easy to remember, and that's true not just because people pay close attention to stories; there is something inherent in the story format that makes them easy to understand and remember. Teachers can consider using the basic elements of story structure to organize lessons and introduce complicated material, even if they don't plan to tell a story in class.    "Everybody loves a good story. Even small children who have difficulty focusing in class will sit with rapt attention in the presence of a good storyteller. But stories are not just fun. There are important cognitive consequences of the story format. Psychologists have therefore referred to stories as 'psychologically privileged,' meaning that our minds treat stories differently than other types of material. People find stories interesting, easy to understand, and easy to remember. To understand why these benefits accrue, it is necessary to understand the underlying format of stories. ..."

  • The Power of Story by Edward O. Wilson, American Educator, Spring 2002, American Federation of Teachers (AFT). This excellent article talks about the use of stories for teaching and why they have the power they do. Delightfully, the author makes use of story to illustrate:
    "...Then, as so often happens in science, a chance event changed everything. One Sunday morning in 1967, a middle-aged couple, Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Frey, were strolling along the base of the seaside bluffs at Cliffwood Beach, N.J., collecting bits of amber. In one lump they rescued, clear as yellow glass, were two beautifully preserved ants...."
  • How Do You Make Children Articulate? It's a Long Story ... by Sarah Cassidy and Richard Garner, The Independent [UK], January 3, 2005. A new scheme that involves reading the classics to primary pupils aims to improve standards of spoken English among Britain's five-year-olds. ... The idea is not only to foster a love of books among today's primary school children but also raise standards in spoken English.

  • Knowing History and Knowing Who We Are by historian David McCullogh, Imprimis, April 2005, Hillsdale College. Excerpt:
    And in my view, the real focus should be at the grade school level. We all know that those little guys can learn languages so fast it takes your breath away. They can learn anything so fast it takes your breath away. And the other very important truth is that they want to learn. They can be taught to dissect a cow's eye. They can be taught anything. And there's no secret to teaching history or to making history interesting. Barbara Tuchman said it in two words, "Tell stories." That's what history is: a story. And what's a story? E.M. Forster gave a wonderful definition to it: If I say to you the king died and then the queen died, that's a sequence of events. If I say the king died and the queen died of grief, that's a story. That's human. That calls for empathy on the part of the teller of the story and of the reader or listener to the story. And we ought to be growing, encouraging, developing historians who have heart and empathy to put students in that place of those people before us who were just as human, just as real -- and maybe in some ways more real than we are.
  • Here's a good example of story-telling for teaching factual content The Story of the Atom (PDF) by Joy Hakim, American Educator, Spring 2002, American Federation of Teachers (AFT). This is a chapter from a forthcoming science series by Joy Hakim, who was the creator of the "Story of Us" series on American history, which was widely praised for its gripping sense of story and its lively text (though it was also lambasted for its blatant political biases). Here's part of the introduction to this article from American Educator magazine:
    "The quest to understand the world around us seems as old as humanity; yet as scientists come closer to such an understanding, their work becomes less comprehensible to the millions of interested laymen. The Story of the Atom shows that even physics, arguably the most confusing of the sciences, can be told as a fascinating -- and informative -- tale of determination and discovery that even middle-schoolers can grasp."

    To illustrate, here is the very start of "Story of the Atom" -- see if it pulls you into wanting to hear more:
    I. The Ancients
    The One Basic Thing
    A long, long time ago, actually it was about 2,500 years ago -- which was before Socrates, or Plato, or Aristotle, or any of the Greeks you may have heard about -- there lived a man named Thales (THAY leez). He is said to be the world's first philosopher-scientist. The first to look for explanations in observed facts, not myths. The first scientist to leave his name on his ideas. ...
    Also see:
    -- Our section on the inclusion of non-fiction as literature.

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