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Dunlop-Wax-Museum

“I Want to Tell the Story”

One of the first things I was told not to do as a student teacher was to bring up dogs. Why? Because every student would want to tell a story about a dog and it would be hard to get the students refocused on the goal of the lesson. 

This odd piece of advice circled in my brain during the first few days before student teaching started, and on the first day of school, my cooperating teacher mentioned that she had a wonderful husband and… a dog. Immediately, many hands went in the air and twice as many mouths started telling stories about dogs and I thought about the words of warning I had just recently received. I wish I could remember exactly how the cooperating teacher started to get the attention of the class, but I remember being in awe that everyone listened the moment she said, “I want to tell you a story about my dog.” 

Her dog was brought up numerous times throughout the school year to teach kindergarteners the craft of writing. The stories about the dog helped students focus and remember key details from the lesson, from how to form “ds” and “gs,” to adding details to describe the dog’s playful personality.

Teaching through stories is a timeless activity that’s great for any age. Even Jesus used stories when he taught his disciples through parables! 

As a teacher, you can act like a historical figure—you may even dress up! You can use picture stories to help students remember the presidents in order or use mini-word stories to teach the names of states and capitals that are tricky for some students. You can use historical facts, made-up stories, or even books like the “Sir Cumference” books. However, teachers don’t have to be the only ones to use stories. 

Here are some ideas to get your students involved:

  1. Have them tell you about their day. This narrative helps develop their recall, language, and sequencing skills. My former preschool students loved this seemingly simple challenge.
  2. Host a “Wax Museum.” Have the students dress up as a historical figure they studied and tell their story from a first-person point of view. 
  3. Do a tableau. This is where students work together to make a still-scene related to a key moment from the literature or history they’re studying. 
  4. Act out the lesson. My fourth graders especially enjoy acting out Bible accounts and concepts by writing their own scripts or using ones from CPH. 

I encourage you to use stories to connect with students and teach the content. Tell your story about a dog. Most importantly, tell the story about Jesus’ love each and every day.

Esther Dunlop has a passion for STEM education and currently teaches 4th grade at St. Luke’s in Oviedo, Florida. She started her career teaching preschool, then fourth grade at Immanuel Lutheran in Olivette, Mo.

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