Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Egan, K. (1986). Teaching as storytelling: An alternative approach to teaching and curriculum in the elementary school. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

In this book, Egan provides an alternative to the dominant procedure for planning lessons, which he describes as the objectivesÑcontentÑmethodsÑ evaluation model. This model can lead to a mechanistic way of thinking about planning teaching. His alternative model encourages teachers to see lessons or units as stories to be told. It draws on newer views of learning and meaning, and stimulates children's imagination. The story, he says, reflects a basic and powerful form in which we make sense of the world and experience. He calls into question the notion that children only learn through hands-on experience with materials. He suggests that children learn a great deal from stories and fantasy, and further, that this learning is fairly abstract. While the child may not be able to articulate abstractions, he or she uses them in making sense of stories. Egan explores how a teacher can use childrens' conceptual abilities to present school content in the form of stories. Stories bring a natural coherence to lessons and set up criteria for what should be included. Therefore, teachers should approach a topic (e.g., communities) as a story to be told, rather than a set of objectives to be attained. Egan proposes the story form model of lesson development which revolves around five key question areas: (1) What is most important about this topic and why should it matter to children? (2) What powerful binary opposites best catch the importance of this topic? (3) What content best articulates the topic into a story form? (4) What is the best way of resolving the dramatic conflict? (5) How can one know whether the topic has been understood by the students? He presents examples of answers to these questions, and describes story lessons or units from several subjects.

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