Once-upon-a-time stories were told in learning

And the storytelling began: Once-upon-a-time, in a land far, far away there lived a family of hard workers who sought to learn new skills. And they lived happily ever after.

While not the most riveting story you’ve ever read, it does contain some of the elements that may furnish your earliest memories. Perhaps these words take you back to a time when you sat at your grandfather’s knee as he read you tales of brave adventurers and frightening wizards. Or maybe you remember a time your parents told you a story with a lesson to be learnt from it. Either way, storytelling has a rich and ancient history that continues to this day – a tradition that connects us to others.

You’re seated around campfire on a warm, starry evening listening intently to a tale told by a game ranger of his close encounter with a breeding-herd of elephants. His story has captivated you and it feels as if he’s telling his tale to you alone. A relationship has been forged between you and the storyteller and the two of you are connected for the duration of the narrative. Together you share the excitement, intrigue and suspense.

Storytelling is not unique to particular cultures, nor is it popular only in cultures that have a strong oral tradition. Our fascination with narratives is shared by cultures the world over1. And, at an emotional level, storytelling nurtures the listener in a way not much else can.

Storytelling has evolved over time and no longer takes place only around a campfire or at the village ‘khotla’, the gathering place of men2. Electronic books, audio books and online stories have extended the reach of the storyteller to those who prefer technology. Yet, despite the difference in delivery, the intimate connection and forged relationship between tale-teller and listener remains intact.

Storytelling and stories help us process and remember information, making learning more effective3. As Maya Angelou said, ‘… people will never forget how you made them feel’. People remember a leaning experience they can connect with emotionally. If learners can identify themselves in a story that reflects their real-life struggles and experiences, they will start to care and apply what they learn. Do we need a more compelling reason to use storytelling in our learning solutions?



  1. Gentry, Angela, 2015. Oral tradition of storytelling. study.com
  2. places.co.za
  3. Malamed, Connie, 2015. Why you need to use storytelling for learning. theelearningcoach.com

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