Teaching with Stories

Teachers engaging students with storytelling in a classroom setting

Teaching With Stories

Let’s kick off this blog with a little tale… Once upon a time, in a land far, far, far, far away… Just kidding. Well, sort of. Lol.

My friend Jenna and I took a stroll around our property and realized it could use a couple of new trees. The front of our house looked quite bare, offering little more than a view of my parent’s house and the county road. Even from my office downstairs, peering out the door’s window, all I could see was the chicken coop and lamb pin. It’s tough to feel inspired when your view includes a chicken coop, you know?

I suggested to Jenna that we go on an impromptu afternoon date to Cortez, which is only about an hour’s drive away. She’s always up for an adventure with me, so she didn’t hesitate to say yes. Without questioning our destination, she happily joined me as we loaded up in our truck and set off for Cortez.

During the drive, we had some wonderful conversations about various topics. Just before reaching Cortez, I made a turn onto a county road, prompting Jenna to inquire about our change of route. I assured her that we were indeed heading to Cortez, but I had a brief stop to make first.

Jenna’s easygoing nature shone through as she simply responded, “Sweet, I love adventures with you.” We continued down a few more county roads until we eventually arrived at a mile-long driveway. Throughout the journey, Jenna and I chatted amiably, but she couldn’t help but wonder where we were headed.

With a tender gaze, I assured her that we were not lost and that I knew exactly where we were going. I promised her that she would love it. As we pulled into the Pleasant Tree Farm, her face lit up with pure joy, realizing my surprise.

With excitement evident in her voice, she exclaimed, “Did you bring me here to pick out some trees for our home?”

“Indeed, I did,” I replied with a smile.

We leisurely strolled through rows and rows of trees, carefully selecting six new additions to plant in our yard later that year, ensuring they would be dug up after they went dormant. When spring arrived, we returned to the farm, retrieved our six amazing trees, and transported them home. With careful hands, we planted four in the front of the house and two where I could easily admire them from my basement office window.

Witnessing God’s creations flourish in our yard is truly a remarkable experience.

You see, by engaging you in our story, I’ve created a connection. I could have simply stated, “Jenna planted a few trees in our yard. Trees have to be dug when they are dormant.” But which version draws you in more?

The best teachers often impart their lessons through stories. Jesus himself employed parables, which are essentially simple stories used to illustrate moral or spiritual lessons.

Do you use stories to teach others? I find that stories are incredibly effective for conveying all sorts of lessons. Sometimes they’re brief, lasting only 30 seconds, while on other occasions, they may extend for over 30 minutes. But regardless of length, stories have a unique ability to captivate and engage people, making the lessons they convey all the more memorable.

Take action!

Here’s the plan:

First, I’d like you to teach a concept using a story. Stories have a way of making information more relatable and memorable. You might already be using this approach without even realizing it.

After you’ve taught using a story, I want you to convey the same concept to someone else without using a story. This could involve a more straightforward explanation or perhaps using visual aids or examples.

Finally, we’ll compare how quickly each person grasps the concept. This experiment will help us understand the effectiveness of storytelling as a teaching tool compared to other methods. Are you ready to give it a try?

A little more

I might have shared this story before, but it’s such a powerful one that I learned from Myron Golden, and it’s worth repeating.

At a recent youth event, I asked for three volunteers who never usually step forward for anything. You could spot them easily because their friends were practically lifting their hands for them. The ones who were willing to raise their own hands were not the ones truly terrified of being called upon.

Then, I called three of those hesitant kids up onto the stage, one by one. Each of them bravely made their way up.

I held the microphone and asked each of them their name. The first girl, Rebecca, whispered hers into the mic. The next, Rachel, mustered up all her courage to say hers aloud. Then came the boy, Sheo. He stood there, avoiding eye contact, knowing what was coming. When he finally spoke, he said his name so quietly that I had to repeat it for everyone to hear.

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a few bills, making sure the kids on stage could see the larger ones. I had $50, a $20, and a $10.

Then, I asked all three if any of them wanted some cash. They all nodded eagerly, although none of them voiced their answer.

I fanned out the bills in my hand and explained the challenge: they had to take just one bill from my hand while my eyes were closed.

I closed my eyes, expecting someone to take the bill, but nothing happened.

Nothing. I mean, it was dead silent, except for the distant chirping of crickets and the shuffling of restless kids in their seats.

So, I opened my eyes, cracked a joke about it, and said, “Seriously, you have to take this or it’s going back into my pocket! Alright, let’s try this one more time.”

I closed my eyes again and extended my hand. After about 30 seconds, one of the girls timidly reached out and took a bill, followed by the other girl about 10 seconds later. Finally, the boy approached and took the last bill.

I hadn’t seen who took what since my eyes were closed. When I finally opened them, I saw them hiding the bills behind their backs. (I hadn’t told them to hide them.)

I couldn’t help but laugh. “You all just got a little richer, and you’re choosing to hide it!”

Next, I asked who took the $50. The girl who had it proudly held it up. “You took action first, so you get the biggest reward! Who got the $20?” The next girl showed hers.

“You acted next, so your reward was higher than the person who acted last. Waiting means you get half the reward.”

Then, I turned to the boy. “What happened, buddy?” He just shrugged and looked at the floor.

“You’re twice as strong as these girls. You should’ve been the one with the $50. But hey, you still acted, so you still get rewarded. How do you feel?”

His response surprised me. “I feel like I shouldn’t have hesitated. Because I did, I ended up with just a fifth of what I could’ve had.”

I asked him, “What did you learn?”

“Take action instead of hesitating, especially when you feel encouraged by God to do something; just go for it!”

I could have simply said, “I gave some kids money to show them the importance of taking action,” but would you truly grasp the significance without the story?


Similarly, if I had just relayed the story to those youths, would they have fully understood the lesson about acting?


Do you now understand why storytelling is so essential in teaching?

So, go out there, take action, and start teaching with stories!

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