Learning With Stories and More



One thing I have learned in life that has helped me tremendously is that learning with stories is so much easier.  What I mean by this is that it is much easier to get a clearer understanding through to someone by using stories, examples, analogies, similes or parables.  So how about we take a look at a story so that I can help you to get a better picture of what I am talking about.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Using a Story to get a point across, such as the Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Using a Story to get a point across, such as the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Most of us are aware of the age old story of the boy who cried wolf, but for arguments sake I will give you the short version of the story here.

“A young lad was in charge of watching the villages small herd of sheep.  One day he thought of a joke to play on the other villagers.  He began to cry out as loud as he could, “Wolf! Wolf!”  All of the villages dropped what they were doing and ran to come help protect their valuable sheep.  Unfortunately for them though, there was no wolf.

The lad thought this was funny, despite the villagers thinking quite the opposite.  Over the next few days the lad repeated this joke several times with each time having the same results.  However, a week later a pack of wolves crept up on the unsuspecting herd and when the boy cried out for help no one came.  All of the villagers heard his cries but figured that it was just another joke, no one believed it was real this time.

As you can see here I was able to share a short story with you to help explain why pranking people can have serious consequences.  I could have very easily said to you, “Don’t prank people as it might haunt you in the end.”  Would you have really gotten the point as clear as you would have if I had told you the above story instead?

Various Different Types of Methods

Simile: The athlete was agile like a cat.
Simile: The athlete was agile as a cat.

While stories are great, there are various different types of methods that you can use to help someone learn better.  These can be things such as just giving simple examples or analogies of what you are talking about or using similes.  Parables are also another route, but they are much akin to telling a story.

Examples:  Examples are the most simple of these methods as they are a clear and distinct demonstration of what you are talking about.  Often when someone is explaining something you will hear them say, “For example…” and then demonstrate exactly what they are talking about.

Similes:  These are a figure of speech that uses words such as: Like, As, So, Than or other similar verbs to compare two things.  For example (Ha!  see what I did there?), the athlete was as agile as a cat.  In essence you are using the well known trait of a cat which almost anyone can relate with to explain how the athlete was able to move.

Jesus is the most well know user of Parables with his teachings.
Jesus is the most well known user of Parables with his teachings.

Parables:  This is similar to a story with a few set guidelines.  These stories are intended to teach a specific moral or principal to the subjects.  They always use humans in the story unlike a fable which could use animals as characters.  Jesus is the most well known teacher that often used parables in his teachings.

Analogies:  are a similarity between the commonalities of two things that can then be used in comparison with one another.  An example of this would be:  The new program at work is pretty easy, just follow the bouncing ball.  So as you can see here I took a common phrase and used it to explain the ease of a new system.

More on Similes

Dog is to cat like cat is to _____?
Dog is to Cat like Cat is to _____?

When I was in grade school I had tested well and joined the Gifted program.  One of the tools that was used to help our young minds learn how to associate different things with another was similes.  I completed a ton of worksheets with problems such as:  Dog is to Cat like Cat is to ______?  The correct answer here if you have not figured it out already is mouse.  A dog chases a cat like a cat chases a mouse!

I attribute my in depth experience with these worksheets to my way of thinking in life.  I often take a broader view of what is going on and using the simple problem format above to link things together.  It helps me to understand what exactly is going on around me when I can have that comparison.  A more basic way of stating it is that it helps me to connect the dots.

I would highly recommend using similes with your kids as an added way to help develop their young minds.  After doing a little bit of searching online I found a good site that had a bunch of different types of worksheets for them here.

Communicating Your Perspective

Have you ever described a smell to someone?

Each soul on this planet has their own unique perspective of what is going on around them in their life and environment.  Getting others to understand that perspective is where all of the above comes into play.

Have you ever described how something smelled to someone else?  I was recently part of such a conversation with a group of people all trying to describe a certain smell and I quite enjoyed all of the various perspectives that were presented.  Similes, Analogies and stories were all being used to convey each person’s perspective on the subject.

So as you can see here, these methods are already a part of all of our lives.  Learning how to pay attention to them, whether they are yours or others, can play a vital role in helping us to understand each other.  Always be mindful when speaking with others and make sure to use stories and such to get a clearer picture across them.  The better we communicate with each other, the better chances we have to live in a world with less conflict.

Share Your Story With Us

Is there a time in your life where it was a story that helped you to get a clearer picture?  Perhaps you often use one of these methods to help get your points across.  Please share with us so that we can all use the knowledge to grow together.  Leave your story in the comment section below!

James W D

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10 Replies to “Learning With Stories and More”

  1. I completely agree that we can communicate ideas more clearly with stories than listing facts.

    In fact a good sales presentation is very much a story where your product or service is the “hero” that saves the day.

    Before we developed written language stories were the only way knowledge was passed on from one generation to the next.

    • I have been in sales most of my adult life, though I have always considered myself more of a customer service rep. That being said, stories are much more effective at explaining things to clients than listing facts.

      People in general find it easier to associate themselves with a story and thus can understand things better than when presented with a list of factual information. When I explain concepts of my business to people I always use personal stories to make it more relatable for them.

  2. Great article about learning with stories. When I was a kid my grandmother used to read to me the stories from Mahabharata, Ramayana and from other similar books of great stories. I have learned a lot from them, because every story has great lessons in it. When I learned how to reading continued reading the stories myself.

    • Stories are just a great way to help get perspective across aren’t they? Many of the great profits from our history would use stories to help spread their teachings and I feel that is an important trait to continue forward with in today’s world.

  3. Awesome post. You really help bring some clarity to different writing techniques with your post. As reading and writing both tend to be dying hobbies/arts and being an avid reading and writer myself, I absolutely love seeing people promote anything related to either. My son is just over 4 months old and I have read to him every day since bringing him home from the hospital and I plan to continue doing so until he’s ready to start reading by himself. I was him to love writing short stories as much as I did growing up, before everything was all iPads and Netflix. Thank you for sharing,

    • Courtney, I can certainly relate with you here. When my oldest was young we always read to him until he picked up the books himself. We always had a strict bedtime as he grew up, but if he was reading in bed we would let him stay up a bit longer.

      My youngest now loves making up stories and games. Reading is just one of those things that really helps to get the creative juices flowing.

  4. Very well written and yes I do agree that by using stories, parables, etc are definitely more affective in getting the message across to your readers. Thinking back to my school days, I only have one teacher who would use stories to tell us about the topic he wants to teach us. These stories make it easier for me to relate and thus make the subject very interesting.
    I will certainly use this method in my own website.

    • Hey I am willing to bet that your grades for that particular subject were better that year than others right? I had a couple teachers like that myself and that always seemed to be the case for me.

  5. What a delightful post. I don’t know what catagory my story comes under but here it is anyway:
    I remember an occasion when my children were young, two girls, then 4 and 8 years. They were always up to mischief and I would say. “If you’re naughty Mummy will know”. My eldest said, “how can you know Mummy if you can’t see us?” Rashly, I stated “well, I can see through walls”. Both girls looked at me rather stunned. My eldest then said, “no you can’t, nobody can see through walls”. I continued confidently “and I can prove it”.
    I knew my two girls inside out. I knew what they liked and what they didn’t like. “Go and get my shopping bag” I ordered and they both rushed off to the hallway and brought back my bag eagerly. “Now I am going to put a number of things in this bag and then I will go out of the room and you can each take an item out of the bag and I will look through the wall and tell you what you’ve taken”. I ushered the girls out of the room and proceeded to put a number of items in my bag. Amongst them, I put in an item I knew my youngest would like and then another item I knew my eldest would choose. I then called them back and went out of the room, leaving the door ajar so I could speak to them. “Sammy choose your item now” I said to the eldest through the door. I could hear her rummaging in the bag and then the rummaging stopped. “Ok, now it’s your turn Christine, choose anything you want”. After she stopped rummaging, I said. “I can see a necklace in your hand Sammy and a little horse in yours Christine.” I calmly opened the door wide and the two girls were sitting on the floor next to the bag, Sammy holding a necklace and Christine holding a little china horse. They both had their mouths open. “As you were such good girls and did exactly what I asked, you can keep what you chose” I said as I walked off to the kitchen to make some tea.
    Needless to say, the girls’ behaviour improved immensely.

    • First off thank you very much for the compliment and sharing your story. This to me seems like a story that would be shared with others as a method of learning. I could see using this story to help teach other parents with their children as well as just using it to show knowledge of your kids and their interests.

      Reminds me of playing Apples to Apples with my family this Christmas. My daughter was the judge, age 12, and the clue was complicated. I played the card telling the truth, which she wasted no time picking. Yup, I knew my daughter well, as she generally does try to beat around the bush sometimes.

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