Will you remember that? Unlikely.
Many folks only recognize the words
“Marco Polo” from a game of hide and
seek played in a swimming pool.
A teacher tells you, “As a seventeen-year-old, Marco Polo accompanied his
father and uncle—the first Europeans
that Kublai Khan ever met—across
Asia! After three and a half years of
travel, Marco Polo finally arrived in
China. His extraordinary adventures
over more than two decades in the
Far East were eventually published,
electrifying the people of Europe.”
How much more likely are you to remember something about Marco Polo
from this story?
The amazing reality about this story-based approach is that when we tell stories
of history, it begins to connect the dots in
a student’s brain. It builds bridges between
this person and that invention, between this
event and that group, and between something we already know and new knowledge. Brain researchers tell us that when
the brain makes connections between what
it already knows and something new, the
new piece sticks. We remember it.
Rather than history as names, dates,
and places, it suddenly becomes a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-in-suspense experience as history comes to life! Instead of
a trivia-based education—where unrelated, uninteresting facts are memorized
and soon forgotten—learning history
with a richly storied approach becomes a
meaningful experience that can actually
shape a student’s life.
With stories as the first and primary
way to make history come alive, we must
ask, where do you find them? Great
question! Biographies, historical fiction,
documentaries, movies, audio CDs, and
interviews of people who lived through
an experience, or have a background in
a moment in history, are all possibilities. 1
Warning: you will seldom find history
presented as a story in a textbook. There,
historical people and events are reduced
to the driest, dustiest facts possible. That
is why history seems so forgettable.
To understand the second motivator in
your toolbox, let me ask you what kind of
reading you personally find compelling.
There is no wrong answer here! Do you
love fiction? Non-fiction? Books on gardening, cooking, sewing, house building,
or car repair? Do you pour through the
Dummy Guides to business or accounting or web design? Think about your
answers, then consider how easy it is to
motivate yourself to read articles, magazines, Internet pieces, or books on the
subjects about which you are fascinated.
Clearly, you enjoy learning about things
you find interesting.
Okay. Now take this thought, and connect it to learning history. We know that
not everyone loves history, right? Some
are naturally drawn to this subject, but
others find it boring or irrelevant. However, a minimum competency in history is essential for your student’s success
Warning: you will
seldom find history
presented as a story
in a textbook.