Definition: Storytelling is an active learning technique that engages students with content by eliciting emotions and memories throughout the use of telling stories. 

Why use storytelling: Teaching content through stories allows learners to become involved with the learning process by creating connections to the characters and content. Storytelling can be used to introduce or reinforce a topic and can help students retain learned information for longer periods of time. This technique can be used in many ways for a wide range of learners, it is not just for young children. Learners can create their own story or act out a story to process information in a novel and kinesthetic way.

Example: Keepers of the Animals, by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchas is an educational resource which uses Native American stories and legends to teach basic ecological concepts and the importance of wildlife. The authors provide activities and prompting questions for each story that can be used to help frame and debrief the story and expand on content. 

Best Practices: 
Stories should…

  • Connect logic to the imagination plane
  • Foster decontextualization and transfer content to the real world application
  • Be used alongside other strategies such as collaborative learning and inquiry
  • Access students’ prior knowledge and experiences
  • Provoke emotional involvement through problematic situations
  • Tap into the curiosity and imagination of students
  • Bring facts to life and make abstract concepts concrete
  • Be presented at a deliberate pace to promote memorization and learning
  • Provide students with ample time and space for evaluation and reflection
  • Provide the possibility of being continued at a later time to enable creative space
  • Provoke interest and further inquiry
  • Be presented with appropriate volume and tone

Borowski, J., Luhrmann, A., & Neirman, S. 2016. Developed for Teton Science School’s Advanced Instructional Strategies Teacher’s Handbook. Unpublished. Best Practices synthesized from Abrahamson, 1998; Andrews et al., 2009; Ellis, 2001; and Horton, 2013.



Caduto, M and Bruchas, J. (1997) Keepers of the Animals. 
Caduto, M and Bruchas, J. (1997) Keepers of the Earth. 


  • Andrew, D. H., & Hull, T.D., Donahue, J.A. (2009). Storytelling as an instruction method: Definitions and research questions Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 3(2), 6-23.
  • Abrahamson, C.E. (1998). Storytelling as a pedagogical tool in higher education. Education, 118(3), 440-451.
  • Ellis, B. (2001). The cottonwood. Science and Children, 38(4), 42.
  • Horton, J. (2013). Teaching science through story. Teaching Science, 59(3), 38-41.