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Why do we tell stories?

For high school English teachers who try to go beyond "teaching to the diploma."

Joanne Polec

on 8 November 2013

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Transcript of Why do we tell stories?

An amazing young spoken word poet telling stories about love and forgiveness, about remembering and forgetting, and about being human.
Think: In point form, take two minutes and jot down all the reasons why you think we (need to) tell stories? Think about your personal context, think about the context of this class, think about the context of society and the world, think about writing for the future.

Pair: Turn to the people in your pod and come up with a list of all the reasons why we (need to) tell stories.

Share: Now share your reasons with the class.
"Why do we (need to) tell stories?"
- it makes us human
- for survival
- we learn and assimilate information much more through stories than we do through charts and statistics
- we are sentient beings - we not only think about things, we feel these things too
- it is central to human existence because it involves a symbiotic exchange between teller and listener
- stories are recognizable patterns, and in those patterns we find meaning. We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others
- stories are common to every culture - they are universal
- it is immersive - meaning, you can use it to drill down as deeply as you like about anything you want to know about
- we are a social species. Stories are a shortcut to the human heart. We tell stories because we need to connect with one another
- stories help people to carve out a role for themselves, to make their lives their own
What fears or inhibitions do you have when it comes to telling your story?
Are you afraid of telling your story?
If it helps, here is a quotation that has had an effect on me and my writing:
"The wound is the place where the light enters you." - Rumi
The importance of life-writing for high school students
"Why do we tell stories?"
Here are some reasons "the experts" give:
What restrictions/ limitations do you face when telling a/ your story?
Some personal reflection:
Why We Tell Stories

For Linda Foster

Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery
of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak

We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and

Lisel Mueller
Full transcript