Do we know what a story is?

I have a profound question that applies to us. Do we know what a story is? I think that many of us would be surprised that the definition is not so clear. The reason why this is so important to us is because in all it’s many forms, storytelling [or story-asking] has an incredible potential to improve how people acquire a language. On page 19 and 20, Kendall Haven states in his book, Story Proof: the science behind the startling power of story:

First learn what the word story does and does not mean. Then you will be equipped to evaluate and successfully use the research to support your own purposes…[So far in the book]We still do not have a working definition of story. I propose using a different approach. If stories are uniquely effective inside the human mind, then let’s use recent advances in cognitive sciences, developmental psychology and neural biology to understand the specifics of how the human mind processes, understands, creates meaning from, and remembers incoming narrative information. We will then use the elements of that process as the foundation of our definition of story.

A lot of people say that there is not enough evidence to support the input based methods, like TPRS. My reaction is that there is a wealth of research that supports the cognitive processes which are present in TPRS students. If we can find the research that proves how these cognitive processes are effective, we have found the research that supports input based methods. But first, we need to know what story is and what it is not.

I also want to say that what we are talking about is so much bigger than a language acquisition method. We are talking about how the brain creates meaning from information presented in a narrative form. This is so huge that it could transform education as we know it. The transformation begins with us. If you get a chance, check out this book. It may change your fundamental understanding of what you do every day.



Filed under Storytelling tips

6 responses to “Do we know what a story is?

  1. Bryce Hedstrom

    This is a helpful blog, Thomas. Reminds me of the links one can make in genealogy–if I can establish a solid connection to a certain relative, then I can piggy-back on the work of others and greatly expand the family tree. In the same way, we do have to “prove” TPRS, we only have to establish the connection to narrative.

  2. Carla

    Do you think you could post a few more details about why the story is so essential? I’m trying to get some support for TPRS where I am and I think this would help a lot. I don’t have this on my reading list just yet, because I think that Kendall Haven’s Super Simple Storytelling (or whichever is the one for every classroom) is probably the one I need to start with for improving my skills…

    • thomasyoung

      I would say in short that the most efficient way for us to absorb information is the form of a story. That is the short of it. This is especially true in language acquisition and we need to provide moments where we are interacting with our students in language that they understand. Without the story they are not acquiring as fast. But you should know that stories are not just limited to what we consider storytelling. It is a wide scope of experiences. There is a more technical response to this in his book, but this is the short of it.

  3. Bryce Hedstrom

    I am waiting for your reflexions on your visit for two reasons, one to see what you picked up (you are a smart guy), and two, to see what i am doing wrong, and occasionally right.

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