The Brain is Built for Stories: Using them in ELT

Curtis Kelly
Saturday, 10 June 2017 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

Stories, the original Wikipedia, are the oldest tool of teaching, and still the most potent. For most of human existence, we have used stories to share information and educate our offspring about the world. It is no wonder our brains have evolved to process stories so much more effectively (or did stories evolve to fit our brains?) than other formats of information delivery. In fact, stories do more than allow information transfer. They cause parallel activation of the insula in both speaker and listener that enable a kind of brain linking.
Likewise, no other format of verbal transfer results in as high a retention rate. A study in London found that use of statistics in a presentation led to a retention rate of 5-10% at best, but by adding a story, retention more than tripled. With use of stories alone, the retention rate soars to more than tenfold.
But why? We know stories cause the release of dopamine, cortisol, oxytocin and other learning-related neurotransmitters, but there is another reason as well, one related to something the brain is doing subconsciously every second.
The presenter will discuss research showing how effective stories are, explain the neuroscience behind this phenomenon, and suggest techniques for using them in class, including Rex Tanimoto’s DigiTales. Be ready to tell your own stories.

Popular speaker and writer, Curtis Kelly (EdD), is a Professor of English at Kansai University in Japan. Since his life mission is the “relieve the suffering of the classroom,” has spent most of his life developing learner-centered approaches for “3L” English students, students with low ability, low confidence, and low motivation. He has written over 30 books, including Significant Scribbles (Longman), Active Skills for Communication (Cengage), and Writing from Within (Cambridge). He has also made about 400 presentations on neuroscience, adult education, motivation, and teaching writing.

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