Using Storytelling in the Classroom

Using storytelling in the classroom creates impact for students. Teachers use storytelling to engage students in the content that they present to their students.

In addition, storytelling can also get students excited about their own learning. Help your students explain what they are learning and communicate their ideas in unique and inspiring ways. Media presentation types include the use of photography, video, and the use of voice, You can also use graphic tools to create captivating infographics on topics of interest.

Elementary school boy looking at a computer screen
Children are experts at using media so why not help them use their media skills for storytelling?

Students use video and pictures to communicate on a daily basis. Why not capitalize on interests they already have by blending these skills with learning?

If you have ever wanted to learn to use media tools like video, audio, photography and graphics to enhance your own teaching this is the perfect opportunity. Once you have mastered these concepts, you can teach your students to create informative stories around what they are learning,

I am sure you are familiar with the beautiful photography that graces the pages of the National Geographic magazine. National Geographic has developed self-paced and Cohort-based free courses to help teachers easily learn to use storytelling in the classroom. By enrolling in their free online courses, you can learn to use these instructional tools for your own presentation. Students can also create their own storytelling media applications to demonstrate their learning.

Through storytelling techniques, students can explore real-life problems and communicate their ideas and concerns in inspiring and motivational ways.

Using media for storytelling can deepen student thinking about important concepts and ideas. It can also help students learn to communicate their ideas in clear, persuasive ways that impact their audiences. What better way to learn about audience and point of view?

To learn more about the National Geographic courses or to sign up for free, go to the National Geographic Website Education Tab. There is also an educator certification course where teachers can collaborate with other educators to create activity-centered instruction using real world problems and issues in the classroom.

National Geographic courses are open to any educator from anywhere in the world who work with students. Courses vary in length, type and schedule. Skills learned in these courses are appropriate for use in all grade levels and content areas.

Audience and Point of View in Student Writing

Preparing Students for College and Career

One of the key skills that graduating students need for success in college and career is the ability to understand how to determine an appropriate point of view that should be used when communicating with different audiences. 

Despite the importance of literacy for job success, 4 out of 5 employers say that recent high school graduates have gaps in their career preparation.  College professors and employers alike complain that students are not prepared to meet the reading and writing demands of either college or the workplace. 

Employers and colleges say that not only do students need to master challenging academic content, they also need to develop strong communication skills. These include speaking, writing, and making presentations to diverse audiences.

Not only are students not fully prepared in reading and writing,  but they also lack critical thinking skills.  Pisa results find that 1 in 6 students are not able to solve problems that require thinking ahead or applying content knowledge to an unfamiliar setting.

In addition to critical thinking and problem-solving, understanding how to write to a specific audience is essential.   Knowing how to engage that audience with a targeted point of view is also a necessary skill that students must have.

Reading Skills Students Need for College and Career

To ensure that students are ready to move on, it is important for classroom teachers to have a clear vision of what is important for them to know and be able to do when they leave school. 

College professors want students who can think and see issues from multiple perspectives. On the job, employees must create presentations and written materials appropriate for a range of audiences from customers to colleagues to Board members. 

Employers find that new high school graduates are not prepared to make those shifts. New employees have difficulty taking the same information and crafting it to fit the needs of different audiences. Employers want new hires who can analyze their intended audiences, organize information, and create information specifically tailored to each audience.

Girl sitting on the floor between two book-filled shelves reading a book.

Teaching Audience Point of View

Students must understand that everything we read, write, or hear has a point of view and an audience who will receive the message.   Ask students to craft and re-craft various messages to meet different audiences.

A good way to do this is by using familiar fairy tales. Students choose a character who is not the main character and then write writing it from various perspectives. This is always a fun and easy way to teach point of view. For example: in Little Red Riding Hood, students can tell the story from the point of view of the wolf or from the Grandmother. They could re-write the Three Little Pigs from the perspective of the wolf or one particular pig.

A great book to use as a model for point of view is: The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka.  Students young and old will love Scieszka’s funny interpretations of these classic tales. They will have a lot of fun creating their own “fractured fairy tale” versions of stories they know and love.

To help students understand the concept of audience in their writing, give students a  simple prewritten paragraph. Ask them to identify how this message might change if it is a text to a friend. Then a message to someone they just met.

Learning about how to write for various audiences is also important. You can ask students to create a position paper on a topic of importance.

Then ask students to identify how the message would change if it were a letter to one of their parents. How would it change if it were a petition to the principal?

How might a message on the benefits of attending your school change if it were sent to a friend?  What about a potential parent? What about a teacher candidate who might be interested in working at the school?  

When students need to think about how a message should change to meet the needs of various audience groups. This improves their communication by targeting their message appropriately.

Fake News – How to Analyze Online Information

Letters spelling out fake news on scrabble tiles.

Identifying Fake News and Online Hoaxes

Are your students able to identify fake news or online hoaxes when they find this online? 

The internet is filled with altered images, hoax sites and fake news articles.  This makes it hard for all of us – students and teachers alike – to know if what we are reading is true.Researching information is an important skill for students for college and career. 

You can help your students think like professional “fact checkers” by teaching them to think critically about what they find on the internet.

Students must understand how to tell credible information from what is purely made up. Social media is filled with false, biased or altered pictures and information that students accept as true information. Learning how to tell the difference between reliable and unreliable information is an essential skill.

One way to help students check the reliability of what they find online is by reading laterally. To read laterally, students read about the source before deciding whether the source can be trusted or not. To read laterally, first open multiple browsers and check what others are saying about the same topic. 

If discrepancies from reliable sources are found, then more investigation is needed to avoid falling for fake news or organizations with narrow agendas.

A great resource you might consider is the website Stanford History Education Group. This site  has lots of information on how to help students improve their media literacy skills. Another excellent website that contains a vast amount of information on media literacy is the News Literacy Project.

Check out the New Literacy Project’s Checkology lesson to help students understand how and why conspiracy theories develop and why they are compelling for people.

You can use the information found on these sites to teach your students the skills they need to ask questions and protect themselves against “fake news” and unreliable information.

Reliability of Sources

Students should look carefully at who is providing the information.  Is this a reliable and trustworthy source? Is the organization reputable and well known in the content area? If not, they may be looking at fake news.

What is the website url?  Having an unusual website address that includes “.com” with additional letters after can often provide a clue that the website is not a reliable source. 

Even using this suggestion is not enough to identify sites that are less than reputable. You can tell students that sources that have “org” or “edu” or “gov”  are likely to be more reliable  and credible but the better way to fact check information they are finding is by checking to see if they find similar information on other sites.

Is the author an expert in his or her field? How do you know? What is his or her background? What kind of an organization does s/he work for? What evidence is there of expertise? Students should check the “about us” page to learn about the author’s background and credentials. 

Then students should do more research about the organization and the author to see if the information gives any more clues on his or her reliability as an expert on the topic.

Can the author be contacted if the reader has questions? In fake news stories, there is often no way to contact the author or organization to ask questions or verify facts. Is the information on an anonymous social media post from someone claiming to be an authority? Is there any evidence provided that can be verified with other sources?

When students understand the steps they can take to verify information, they are less likely to fall victim to fake news, conspiracy theories or misinformation.

Validity of Claims and Arguments

Does the writer make bold claims yet provide no sources or documentation to back up what is being said?

By searching multiple sources students will be able to spot problems with the information being provided. When was the article written and has it been updated? Are there charts, pictures, videos or other forms of data to back up the key points the author is making?  Is the information merely the author’s opinions? Does the article list references that can be found supporting the facts?

Are there several other websites that provide conflicting information when compared to the information found on this website? 

When a student searches for the author of the website, are there negative reviews that come up? Suggest that students check fact check websites such as:  www.Snopes.com, https://firstdraftnews.com,  or www.factcheck.org to see if the information has been verified or debunked by one of these fact checking websites.

Google now has it’s own tool called Fact Check Explorer which students can use to fact check information from the web about a topic or a person. You can access this tool at: https://toolbox.google.com/factcheck/explorer.  Students can even read about recent fact checking reports by clicking on the “Recent Fact Checks” tab on the page.

To see if images may have been altered, students can conduct a reverse image search on google or use a website such as https://tineye.com  to find where images appear on line.  Your students can also download a Fake Image Detector for Chrome or Firefox browsers.

2 newspapers on a table with a cup of coffee
Misinformation, Conspiracy Theories and “Fake” News is a Growing Problem on the Internet

Conclusion for Fake News

It is vital that students understand how to do effective research when they are online.

Students need to know how to determine whether what they are reading is true and verifiable. At some of the websites that provide resources for teachers, such as the  News Literacy project, you can learn even more about how fake news, misinformation and disinformation is eroding truth and reliability in our society.

Another helpful website where you can find excellent information on fake news is https://www.kqed.org. This organization not only provides classes for teachers but they have an excellent YouTube channel with student-friendly videos that can be used int he class to help students understand how

While online media such as Twitter and Facebook recently started flagging some sources of misinformation or disinformation, it does not catch everything. Fake news, online hoaxes, conspiracy theories and the deliberate distribution of misinformation abounds.

Unfortunately, unreliable information and “fake news” is not going away anytime soon.

It is critical that we train our students on how to think like fact checkers so that they do not fall victim to misinformation, lies, conspiracy theories and downright false information when they surf the web.

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