Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains

The Missing Piece of the Literacy-Puzzle!  

Our brains become more active when we tell and listen to stories.

If we listen to a PowerPoint presentation with boring bullet points, certain parts in the brain get activated. Scientists call these Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens.
When we are being told a story, though, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.
If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were, our sensory cortex lights up. If it’s about motion, our motor cortex gets activated...

A story can put our whole brain to work! 

And it gets better!  When we tell stories that have helped us shape our thinking to others, they will experience the same effect! The brains of the person telling a story AND listening to it, can synchronize.  By simply telling a story, you can plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains. 
A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that
a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience
.
Anything you’ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get the same areas of their brain to be active, too.
Why does the format of a story, where events unfold one after the other have such a profound impact on our learning?
The simple answer is this: We are wired that way.

A story, if broken down into the simplest form is a connection of cause and effect.  

And that is exactly how we think.
Whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences. While we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, disgust or else. Everything in our brain is looking for the cause and effect relationship of something we’ve previously experienced.

www.TheSecretStories.com

A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.

The above excerpt is from an article by Leo Widrich on the Science of Storytelling- "What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains."
This is powerful information for teachers. While we've always known that telling stories can make  what we teach more interesting and memorable for our students, realizing the science behind WHY this is so, makes this long-used, teaching-tool even more effective!  

Understanding WHY something works is the key to making it work even even BETTER!  

Which leads me to my next great teaching-find...


In the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck, authors Dan and Chip Heath provide a useful list of ways we can make information memorable: 
Simplicity 
Unexpectedness 
Concreteness 
Credibility
Emotions
Stories 
Together, they make up the acronym SUCCES  (yes, the last 'S' is missing!)

So what does all of this mean?

Well, if the Secret Stories were a cake, the above list of ingredients would make up its creamy center... while the fact that they were "secrets" is the too-good-to-resist frosting on top!

www.TheSecretStories.com

And here's why...
1. Simplicity
The Secret are simple because the "goal of the game" is not in telling them, but in USING them to read and to write... and the brain research shows that the simpler the story, the more likely it will stick!

2. Unexpectedness
The brain loves novelty- in all forms: unusual noises, extreme motions, exaggerated body gestures- all of which are infused in the telling of the Secrets! 

 3. Concreteness 
We remember best what can be seen, touched, heard, and personally experienced. Knowing the Secrets about the letters and their sounds allows learners to experience them as realistic and familiar "entities" with actions, associations, and behaviors (i.e. sounds) that are readily predictable. 

4. Credibility
Because there is a Secret to explain any sound a letter or letters can be found making 'five times or more' in text, what might otherwise appear as "random inconsistencies" are now easily accounted for. (Think of the Secrets as a sort of cheat-sheet for the "Best-Betting Odds" in Las Vegas!)  Knowing the Secrets means knowing how the letters will behave (i.e. what sound they are most likely to make) in various (text) scenarios, and this insider-knowledge is what equips learners to "work-through" their various sound options-  from that which is MOST likely, to NEXT most likely, to the "if all else fails" sound alternative! 

5. Emotions
Emotions and feelings are what motivates the actions and behaviors of characters in all stories, and the SECRET STORIES are no different.  It's the learners' ability to "relate and empathize" with the Secret Stories characters that make their behaviors, and thus their sounds, so predictable.

6. Stories
(This one's obvious :)

Do you use stories to teach trickier concepts in your classroom?  

If so, I would love to hear about it! 

And I hope that by incorporating the "SUCCES" (without the last 'S!') strategies, your stories can become even more powerful teaching tools!

"Mrs. Mac Moments"

I just love receiving these little clips that capture student discoveries of Secret Stories throughout the instructional day! These minute-long video clips are from Mrs. Mac's Class (a.k.a. Renee McAnulty from Cottonwood Elementary in Hesperia, California).

This little girl was so excited to share her "Secretdiscoveries in writing....


And the little guy in these next two clips (which I'd actually received last month but am just now posting!) is using the Secrets to decode unfamiliar words in a beginning Level A reader during guided reading. 


I especially LOVE the questions Ms. Mac asks in this second clip about his thinking-process with regard to the Secret strategies he's using to decode the text! 

     
And I also received this extra-special "Halloween-treat" from some VERY creative kindergarten teachers in Frederick County, Virginia, who surprised their students this Halloween by dressing up as the SECRET STORIES Superhero Vowels!  
I especially love the idea they'd come up with to "dot the i!" 



And finally, some "Teacher-Treats!"
Until midnight, October 31st, you can download the newly-formatted and revised Secret Stories Guided Reader "In the Fall" FREE, as well as The Bag Ladies mini-unit "Pocket Books!"  Both items are currently in the FREE DOWNLOAD WINDOW on TpT!
*For notification of Free Download Windows, just follow my RED DIAMOND Pinterest Boards, or you can follow me on TpT!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

And don't forget to enter this month's Rafflecopter Giveaway....and earn TWO additional entries just by sharing your comments here before midnight, October 31st!
(Must be a current subscriber to the SECRET STORIES Sessions Blog to win)

Until Next Time,

     
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