You are using an outdated browser. For a faster, safer browsing experience, upgrade for free today.


A Happy Courtship = Storytelling and Education

Published June 12, 2017

A Happy Courtship - Storytelling and Education

By Mike Lockett

Every day I work to promote a special courtship and encourage a special marriage, the marriage of storytelling and education.  The two came together when the world was young.  Long before people had written languages, they told stories.  Stories were their primary method of teaching.  Stories were their primary method of entertainment. Stories helped explain the unknown.  Stories prepared people for the hunt.  Then stories told people about the hunt.  Stories shaped people's behavior.  Then stories were told about how people did and didn't behave.  Stories were told so people could remember the past.  Almost everything people learned came to them through stories.  Stories and learning were an inseparable couple.  It seemed like the two were destined to have a perfect marriage.


Then came the break up!  Languages grew.  More and more words were developed, many words without stories.  Written and oral vocabulary grew without story.  Science replaced story when giving explanations.  People were taught to learn by memorization. They learned by rote – not through story. Stories lost their importance. Rules were introduced to help remember new information. Over time, adults even stopped telling stories to the young.  The world lost many of its stories.  The world lost most of its storytellers.  While some learners flourished with the new forms of education, many learners found education dull and boring.  When interest is gone, couples separate and grow apart.  Story and education no longer walked hand in hand. The hands were empty, wanting something to hold.


Ah, but then came the matchmakers.  There were still people who loved stories, people who learned best through story.  When students heard their stories, their listening comprehension improved.  Hearing words in the context of stories, their vocabularies improved.  They heard words and learned to recognize them in print. This helped their reading comprehension and fluency to improve.  Listening to stories built interest for the students.  Boredom disappeared for many students.  Difficult subjects became easier.  There was huge improvement in learning.  Some of the storytellers even became teachers and used stories to help them teach. 


I was one of the students who learned better through story. My preferred method of learning was learning through story.  I suffered through the memorization, and I learned the rules.  But I also learned the stories.  The stories helped the rules and the content of what we had to memorize make sense. The stories made me want to learn. And as Chaucer said, “Gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” I became a successful teacher, a storyteller and later - a trainer of teachers. When I became a teacher, I taught the memorization.  I taught the rules.  But I also told stories and taught through stories.  I learned the importance of stories in learning and began to bring storytelling and education together in a deliberate fashion.  For thirty three years I worked in public school education as a teacher, school administrator and as a part-time storyteller. Following my retirement from the world of full-time teaching, I became a full-time professional storyteller. I recently completed my 11th year using storytelling to promote a love of using storytelling in schools.


I often work in schools, using stories and storytelling to promote leaning and to assist educators. I use audience participation stories and encourage students to join in the telling.  Learners of all ages enjoy the fun and forget the fear that sometimes makes learning difficult. Their enthusiasm and efforts helps their speech to improve.  Students learn through the stories and remember information longer when it is associated with stories.  I tell stories to help students learn. Much of my work as a storytelling educator takes place in early childhood classrooms across the USA and in “kindergartens” in eastern Asia. (Kindergartens in much of Asia refer to all organized efforts to teach children who have not yet entered first grade. This often means teaching children as young as 18 months old up to 6-7 year old children.) I play music, sing a few simple songs and play with stories to catch the attention of the young children. I tell stories while using audience participation and “story play” to get the students to join in. (Story Play is a term I learned from Margaret Read MacDonald, one of the top family storytellers in the world.) I tell the stories while encouraging audience members to join in verbally with the telling. I use these same techniques with adult learners and bring audience members to the front to help act out the stories. Listeners are encouraged to follow my voice and actions and the actions of the volunteers in front of them as they participate in the story. Listeners repeat elements of the story and reinforce their abilities to pronounce the words in the story. Their fluency in speaking and reading and increase their comprehension of oral and written language. The ability to retell stories improves, as does the desire to read more books and stories.


My goal is to promote the courtship so stories and learning can again walk hand in hand.  Their marriage may not be imminent.  The full inclusion of storytelling in education may not be accepted by all.  But there is hope that storytelling will again be welcomed into world of education even if only on a minor scale.  I consider it one of my life goals to continue to promote storytelling to educators as an effective teaching method.  I also will continue to promote the need among storytellers to increase their skills at sharing stories effectively in schools and classrooms.


Those interested in observing my efforts to build bridges between storytelling and education are welcomed to visit my website to learn more about my work at or to follow my storytelling travels on Facebook.