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The art and the science behind it
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”, said Maya Angelou, an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist.
It is not a hidden mystery that we all love to listen to stories. When a child is born, their first introduction to the world around them come from stories told to them by their parents or caregivers. When that child becomes a teenager, those stories turn into ways of sharing events and experiences. As the teenager becomes a grown adult they make important decisions by relying on stories learnt through their growing years and/or shared learning with peers.
Stories play a huge role consciously and sub-consciously. We remember our friends and families, our favorite moments and events through stories. Even without realizing it we are continuously regaling each other with stories from our everyday activities.
“So, How was your day?“
The simplest question that we ask each other is a trigger to our brain to tell a story.
Storytelling is not just an artistic expression of our feelings or shared experiences. There is a deep scientific correlation between storytelling and how it deeply affects our brain.
Brain cells sing together
Storytelling is the best way to share our ideas and emotions. When one shares their story to the wider world, the listeners’ brain synchronizes with that of the storyteller so that the readers’ minds can truly feel and see the same imagery as the storyteller. Scientists call it Neural Coupling and it happens because the neurons of the listener fire the same way as that of the storyteller. I like to think of it like our brain cells singing together to the same tune.
Whether or not one aspires to be an architect, scientist or an artist, storytelling is an essential skill that will teach kids to connect with each other. It gives kids the tools so they can truly convey their work with everyone else. Teaching kids the art of storytelling is an integral step in their learning journey.
Repeat to remember
Our brain likes to repeat things. It is by repeating events that have happened in the past that we create long term memories, those that we can always remember. In pedagogical terms, this is known as ‘retrieval practice’. It is the act of trying to recall knowledge from long-term memory, rather than constantly feeding it into the brain. “When students pull information out, when they have to think back,” explains cognitive scientist Pooja Agarwal, “they then are better able to remember that information for the long term than if they just kind of shove it into their heads.”
Storytelling is an act of retrieval practice where we draw out events that happened in the past and connect dots among them. This is also why we remember things that have been narrated to us as stories.
Focussing while daydreaming
Our mind is estimated to engage in over a thousand daydreams a day and half of our waking time is spent wandering. Stories command human attention. That is why storytelling brings our human mind back into focus of remembering and cementing ideas to persist.
A well-told story engages multiple areas of the brain including the motor cortex, sensory cortex and frontal cortex. This is because a story releases dopamine in the brain, that joyful excited feeling when you approach something that meets an unmet need. Dopamine is your brain’s signal that a reward is at hand. This increased cortical activity makes it easier to remember and with greater accuracy.
Stories build logic
Creating and sharing stories helps build the logic centers in the brain. This will help develop computational skills in growing children. Traditionally you might think that stories do not affect STEM capabilities. But if you follow a story timeline there is always a logical flow and more than often aspects of problem-solving within the narrative. That brings us to reiterate that storytelling can improve logical reasoning in early learners.
So, parents, teachers and educators – let the storytelling begin. Encourage the next generation to tell their story. Inspire them to get creative and build a logical mindset. Ignite their imagination.
If you are looking to add a writing tool to your kid’s digital playtime, download our story-writing app. Available on all iPads.
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