🧠 6 Curriculum ‘Storytelling’ Tips To Improve Recall



In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the ‘most followed teacher on social media in the UK’. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the ‘500 Most Influential People in Britain’ by The Sunday…
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Did you know, that ‘telling stories’ activates the neurons in our brain?

Effective teaching requires teachers to bring complex curriculum concepts, rules and facts to life, connecting abstract curriculum material with real-world, concrete examples.

Effective teachers tell stories!

Over the last three or four years, I have been exclusively researching and reading more and more about memory. As part of my day job, I speak to thousands of teachers on a weekly basis. I’ve learnt over time what content sticks and I am still mastering the art of public speaking. In essence, I am telling stories!

For three decades, I’ve told thousands of stories to students in classrooms. Learning how to share engaging stories (in busy classrooms) with the most vulnerable, most challenging, or gifted young people requires nuance and experience.

Example stories …

Great teaching requires many components, but one key feature is being able to explain ideas clearly! I’ve written a few examples here to allow you to experience what happens when ‘I tell you a story!’ See how you get on with these:

  1. The Teacher and the Ofsted Inspector
  2. The Trolley Problem and,
  3. Letting Go …

I’ve also developed scripts and resources that you can try.

How to tell great stories!

As explained in Mark Plan Teach 2.0, with some sketchnote examples below, there are 5 components to successful storytelling. One of my favourite strategies is by speechwriter Simon Lancaster. You can see him explain his method in this short video which I have summarised and then adapted:

  1. Breathless sentences
  2. Repetition
  3. Opposites
  4. Metaphor
  5. Exaggeration
  6. Rhyme.

Here’s my adaptation of the above; I have also highlighted where I have used each strategy. E.g. (2)

(1) New DfE data shows 6.5% of 16-18 year-olds are NOT in education, employment or training (NEETs, 2022).

(2) That’s ~136,000 young people!

(3) All teachers want to help their students, but where should they start?

(4) We know the pandemic has set the work teachers do in education, back by years, with the most disadvantaged missing out the most! Teachers want to equip our young people with study skills they can use for life, (3) not just a ticket to successful qualifications …

(5) With the exam season approaching, all teachers have the perfect opportunity to begin to readdress the balance. (6) The Revision Revolution is an evolution that starts with explicitly teaching 9 study skills from day one of education … (5) It’s now or never!

Four curriculum considerations …

It may not be the most effective story, but I’m having a go at trying Lancaster’s technique to drive traffic to a ‘study skills webinar’. In Mark Plan Teach 2.0, I signpost four key strategies all teachers should try. You can grab this PDF here, or the complete set if you want a bank of resources.

Mark Plan Teach Sketchnote Plan 3

Lessons that are well-pitched use imaginative teaching strategies. Having a clear rationale to work with is essential, and it can make all the difference with lesson planning and delivery in the classroom. Storytelling can help!


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