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Using Storytelling in the Classroom as a Form of Teaching

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Storytelling and narrative have both been used as a teaching device for hundreds of years. Their roots have surrounded religion, generally as an easier way of understanding the beliefs better. From the early views of Animism and Taoism, later to the views of Judaism and Christianity, and throughout time to today, stories have been used to teach the young and old. However, stories are not only used to teach about religious beliefs. Parents use stories to teach their children many facts about life. Elders use stories to teach the newer generation about humility or the value of work. However, storytelling has been used only sparingly in today’s classroom.

Storytelling is a very unique way of teaching. It is nearly the exact opposite of the formal way of education. A good storyteller does not recite cut and dry facts. Instead, the narrator is tasked with creating a captivating and unique story. However, not only must the story gain interest from the audience, it must also have a moral that can be understood by all of the listeners. This is the key if teachers are trying planning on using educational stories in school. Unfortunately, that is also the hardest part. Converting all of the nuances emotions into cognitive speech is difficult, but making certain that all of your audience can understand it is an immense challenge.

The use of storytelling should be increased throughout all levels of schooling, as there are many benefits to its uses in education. Stories have many advantages over the traditional styles of education, even if the stories are factual. One advantage over cut and dry facts is that one story can have multiple meanings and morals. A fine example is Francisco Jimenez’s “The Circuit”, which is a story of the earlier years in his life. Jimenez uses his story to educate people about the tough life of young migrant workers. Yet, in his story there are many small universal truths that can be seen. One such truth is the stratification of society. Jimenez shows his audience that the life of people on the bottom level of society is very difficult. “…the temperature had risen to almost one hundred degrees.

I was completely soaked in sweat and my mouth felt as if I was chewing on a handkerchief…The next morning I could hardly move. My body ached all over” (Jimenez 141, 142). The passage shows how hard even the children have to labor in order for the family to make any money. They move from work site to site during the different seasons. When the family does find work, they live in horrid conditions. “The garage was worn out by the years. It had no windows. The walls, eaten by termites, strained to support the roof full of holes. The dirt floor, populated by earth worms, looked like a gray roadmap” (Jimenez 140). Jimenez’s mother and his little siblings sleep on a mattress on the ground, while Jimenez, his father, and his brother sleeps outside under the trees.

However, his story also shows that even the people lowest in society can overcome insurmountable odds. On the rare occasions when Jimenez was allowed to go to school, he tried his hardest to make up for all of the lost time away from it. “The rest of the month, I spent my lunch hours working on English with Mr. Lema, my best friend” (Jimenez 143). Not only did he try to learn school subjects, he also made an effort to learn how to play the trumpet. “‘How would you like to learn how to play it?’ he asked. He must have read my face because before I could answer, he added; ‘I’ll teach you how to play it during our lunch hours'” (Jimenez 144). Jimenez shows the audience that he was not happy with his life of manual labor, wanting to improve himself so he could find a better way of life.

Unfortunately, Jimenez’s parents needed to move to different work sites as the seasons changed. So, Jimenez could not gain a real education because he was always being moved around. Even with all of these roadblocks on Jimenez’s path to adulthood, he still became an educated adult. “Jimenez received his B.A. from the University of Santa Clara (now SCU) in 1966; his M.A. in 1969 and Ph.D. 1972, both from Columbia University; and he attended Harvard University in 1989. He teaches courses in Spanish in the Modern Language Department” (Curriculum Vitae). At the conclusion of the story, the audience can easily see that “The Circuit” contains at least two morals: As bad as your personal conditions are, it could always be much worse. Yet, even though your probability of future success is low, there is still a chance; however slight it may be.

Storytelling is very unique in that it can teach students a lesson from someone’s past experiences. Each student can then take the story and then analyze it from multiple points of view. In every story, there are a number of lessons that can be brought out and interpreted differently. In the case of Francisco Jimenez’s “The Circuit”, the audience can see numerous significant views being raised by Jimenez: from his views on child labor to his beliefs regarding personal future. Storytelling can communicate an important point across multiple cultures, offering the audience the ability to open their minds. Storytelling should be used in schooling more often, as its benefits are numerous.


Jimenez, Francisco. The Circuit. 1997

“Curriculum Vitae, Francisco Jimenez.” Gale Research Incorporated. Santa Clara

University’s Homepage on Diversity. July 1999.

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