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Telling Stories In Class Like Abraham Lincoln



One of the challenges I face every year in IB Theory of Knowledge classes is getting students to learn about and practice the art of story-telling when they do their Oral Presentations and write their TOK essays.

In the past, I haven’t done much with that until it was actual time to do those two projects. One of the activities we do then is review a lot of the materials I have on The Best Digital Storytelling Resources.

Once I saw the article To Improve Your Storytelling Skills, Use Abraham Lincoln as Inspiration earlier this week, though, I decided to try an experiment.

There’s been a lot attention lately pushing scientists to tell stories about their work. And I have a vague memory of seeing a short piece in some TOK book about having students tell science stories, too.

So, after briefly telling students about the importance storytelling would have in their upcoming presentation and essay, I had them read the Lincoln article. It suggests that the key to his storytelling success was using a four-part series:

(Part 1) In the past…

(Part 2) Then something happened . . .

(Part 3) So now . . .

(Part 4) In the future . . .


I had students apply that sequence to telling the story of a scientific discovery of their choice (we’re studying Natural Sciences right now):

1. How was life  prior to the discovery? What did people believe?

2. How was the discovery made?

3. How did the discovery affect the world when it occurred?

4. How has the discovery affected the world of today?


Students worked in pairs, created a poster, and made very short presentations “speed-dating” style.

It went very well.  Ask me in a month-or-two how effective it was in helping them formulate stories for their oral presentations…


Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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