Storytelling in the Social Studies Classroom, pp. 5 of 8

Then, Raihanna played a video from the angle of the two ladies in the café that showed a car stopping about 50 metres away at a traffic junction. At the same time, a pedestrian was waiting at the traffic junction. From the angle of the cafe, Tom was seen by the girls to be kissing a lady with blonde hair in his car. However, from the angle of the pedestrian, we saw that Tom was in fact kissing an Afghan Hound, a dog with long golden fur. Raihanna then asked, “You saw the reaction of Joanna. What do you think you saw from her perspective? What happened after that? She called off the engagement. Can you take out the handout that I just gave you? The handout says, ‘Tom needs your help.’ Now, doing a source-based question is like solving real world problems.” On the handout were five sources representing varying accounts of the same event from the perspective of each observer (Tom, Joanne, Veronica, Tom’s boss, and the pedestrian).

Next, Raihanna asked her students to role-play the characters of Tom, Joanne, and Veronica. She asked, “Now, if I were to only give you these three sources. Tom said he didn’t do it but the other two said he did it. Then the conclusion you would have drawn is that he actually two-timed. But now, with these two additional sources, how does this change the meaning?” Next, Raihanna asked two other students to role play the other two characters in the story. The student playing Tom’s boss gave his account that he had asked Tom to send his dog for grooming. Another student playing the pedestrian, also gave his account that he saw Tom kissing a beautiful dog. Raihanna then asked the class, “Okay, with the inclusion of these two sources, does it change your conclusion?” From this story, Raihanna proceeded to teach her students the importance of fact-checking and comparing the accounts of different sources.

This story illustrates how having more perspectives or multiple sources of information help in drawing a better conclusion. In the source-based question, students were given sources from a current affairs issue and were to answer questions based on them. The teacher had transformed the typical socio-political context into a boy-girl-relationship one, and used it to teach fact-checking and cross-referencing, both important elements of thinking and assessing the reliability of sources. Rather than decontextualizing the skills, the teacher embedded them in a familiar and engaging setting, aided with storytelling, video, and role-play to help students apply those skills. Thereafter, Raihanna moved on to the actual source-based question and helped students draw parallels with what they had just learnt. The story, The Jerk, has a weakness though. Unbeknownst to the teacher, such simplistic stories can reinforce the stereotype of the unfaithful man and the cheating blonde woman. Teachers must try to avoid bias and stereotyping so as not to teach the wrong values to students (Sim, 2004). This can be avoided by having other colleagues who have different perspectives vet through the lesson plans before implementing them.

Using engaging storylines of real life examples that are relevant to students’ daily lives helps students connect more easily with the content and the skills to be learnt. This complex function of storytelling illustrates its potential to provoke more than an emotional and cognitive response, but also to teach the very skills that will be assessed in the examinations. This example shows how contextualized storytelling can be an effective way to teach thinking skills as the narrative structure helps the learner to emotionally engage with the problem, achieving an “integration of the new and unfamiliar alongside that which has been previously incorporated" (Szurmak & Thuna, 2013, p 549).

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!