I gain agency from telling my own stories, because I choose the heroes, the villains and the challenges which I feel have defined me.
— Maryam P., National Cathedral School

Storytelling & Narrative

Overview

If there is one thing that CEOs, novelists, and evolutionary biologists can all agree on, it’s the power of story to move human beings. We are wired for story. It is a powerful way we learn, influence, and are influenced.

The goal of this class is for students to build the skills to become authors of their own stories and more discerning listeners to the stories of others.

Students who take this class will understand what makes a story tick and how to craft compelling ones, as well as how to recognize how stories are effecting them and those around them.


approach

Craft: Each unit introduces a new aspect of storytelling craft, providing students the opportunity to see how others have used it and to use it themselves.

Media: Storytelling & Narrative embraces the full diversity of stories: both in medium and in perspective. Students will examine mediums including film and television, social media, graphic novels, and podcasts, in addition to more traditional mediums. We have curated stories from a diverse set of authors and storytellers; we also use a flexible framework to allow teachers and students choice to add authors and stories they want to explore.

Audience: What is a story without an audience? This class is designed to help students think about how to tailor their stories for a specific audience, setting or purpose.


The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.
— Jonathan Haidt, New York University

  • Agency & Autonomy The stories we tell about ourselves influence how we feel about ourselves, what we think we’re capable of, and the actions we take. The stories we tell about others influence how we feel about them, the compassion we show, and the actions we take. In this course students will learn to recognize and re-write these stories to become authors of their own stories and take control of a powerful force that shapes human lives.

  • Employability & Life Skill We often don’t recognize it, but storytelling is a skill that can be honed and cultivated. It is a winning difference between Bill Clinton & Hillary Clinton, between Ronald Reagan & Mitt Romney. It is the most prized attribute among hunter-gatherers. And it is not going anywhere. Storytelling is a 40,000 year skill—it has always mattered and always will.

  • Leadership Junot Diaz refers to the Presidency as Storyteller-in-Chief. Top graduate institutions like the Harvard Kennedy School and Stanford Graduate School of Business offer over-subscribed storytelling & narrative classes. Organizations like Story Collider help scientists tell compelling public stories about their research. Across all domains, we recognize that our leaders are our storytellers and that the stories they tell shape the society we live in.

RATIONALE


Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.

— Madeleine L'Engle, Author

In development and ready to pilot for 2019-20.

Course status


student feedback

We’re running Storytelling & Narrative as a student fellowship in summer 2019 to get feedback before launching the course in fall 2019. After a 45-minute workshop we ran on storylining in summer 2018:

  • 94% of students agreed that they could storyline more effectively

  • 94% of students agreed that they want to learn more about storytelling

As we develop the summer experience and full-year course, our Student Advisory Board is giving us feedback on our approach—from the Goals & Topics document to the unit plans.


My biggest problem with writing essays is staring at my evidence and having no conclusions about them so I end up grouping them thematically. However, [storylining] was very beneficial to look at organizing text in a way that would interest the reader more.
— Kaleidoscope Fellow, summer 2018

Ultimately, this class is for students. We created it to prepare them to be the authors of their own stories and more discerning consumers of the stories of others. Here are some other people we think will be interested:

  • Any educator who believes in the power of story and wants to share it with students

  • Teachers excited to make space for creating stories, not just analyzing them

  • School leaders who want to give their students a leg up in college admissions & success (college admissions = storytelling contest)

  • Department leaders who want to pioneer a highly impactful course

  • Curriculum leaders who want to equip students to address the challenges we face while simultaneously preparing them for the jobs of the future

  • Students! This class is for students! And not just for the creative writing, drama club set. This class is for all students. Storytelling is fundamental to our humanity. Regardless of how we see ourselves, the stories we tell about ourselves and others shape our feelings and actions. Learning to identify the stories we believe and to tell new stories is essential to cultivating student agency.

Who it’s for


There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.
— Ursula LeGuin, noveslist

Storytelling & Narrative covers many of the Common Core English Language Arts standards for grades 11-12. Depending on the text choices you make within the course framework it may be more or less aligned (e.g., we do not require Shakespeare, but you could certainly include him as an example of adapting works between media, which is a part of this class).

Standards Alignment


Email us at info@kaleidoscope.education to learn more about offering this course.

Interested?