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Friday, April 17, 2009

The Privileged Status of Story

"I have read that the mind treats stories differently than other types of information. It seems obvious that people like listening to stories, but it’s not obvious how to use that in the classroom. Is it really true that stories are somehow "special" and, if so, how can teachers capitalize on that fact?"

The answer to this question is well worth a read for any teacher desiring to put the power of story into their daily instruction. Cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham addresses the topic of the application of story in the classroom in his excellent article The Privileged Status of Story, one of his many Ask the Cognitive Scientist columns at the AFT's American Educator.

Daniel first defines story using four features commonly agreed upon by professional storytellers (playwrights, screenwriters, and novelists). These features (sometimes called the 4 Cs) are Causality, Conflict, Complications, and Character. Even if a teacher chooses not to tell "stories" in the traditional sense, employing just one of these features can have a profound impact on every lesson, helping to create learning that is interesting, memorable, and easier to comprehend.

Many of his ideas can be adapted to the use of picture books in the content areas. Be sure to read all the way through; you'll find great practical applications throughout!

Upcoming post: Play Ball! Baseball Picture Books


Julie Niles Petersen said...


I started reading/scanning two of the articles from Daniel T. Willingham and emailed them to myself to read completely at a later date. The bits I read were great! Thank you so much for this post.

I only recently discovered Daniel through the video, "Teaching Content Is Teaching Reading" (which I LOVE). In case you haven't seen that, here is a link:

P.S. I'm glad you gave the specific title because your link just went to the table of contents. I notice that with a lot of links to AFT.

Thanks again, Keith!!!

Anonymous said...


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