How to Tell a Story When You Are Not a Storyteller

Have you ever tried to retell a story, only to get to what you think is the climax, and not have anyone get the point? Instead, your listeners are giving you that look as if you haven’t finished telling the story. Or you try to retell a funny joke you heard and when you get to the punch line, no one thought it was funny? Being able to tell a story is an excellent teaching technique that taps into the affective domain by drawing students into a given setting and circumstance that demystifies complex concepts, fosters empathy for situations beyond our experiences, or promotes be able to handle dilemmas with no apparent right answer. Stories engage us in ways that lists, facts, theories, and principles can’t.

For this reason, storytelling seem to be a good technique to incorporate into the teaching of publication style guidelines. Since I’m not a natural storyteller, I chose to borrow story elements from a story with which I am familiar, specifically the creation story as told in Genesis chapters one through three. When I learned to use APA publication guidelines, I certainly wondered where all these minute details came from. Who decided how many words constituted a block quote or which words in a reference would be italicized or not? Given the setting of orderlessness, a fall from grace style plot, and a larger than life god-like character, humor is used to convey the importance of using style guidelines to enhance the perception of credibility. Check out the story below.

If you’re not good at storytelling, borrow from the best stories you know (notice the credits at the end of the movie). The Scarlet Citation was born from this process and is used to introduce students to the required style guidelines for a specific discipline. By tweaking the setting, plot, and character traits of familiar stories, a short story can be written in a few hours. This is just one way of telling a story when storytelling is not your strength. What strategies do you use to tell compelling stories for your learning projects?