George Lucas Educational Foundation

Once Upon a Conflict...

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Hi Everyone! Posts on the forum got me to thinking about the many ways stories can be use to teach SEL concepts. Here are some ideas I can share, won't you please contribute your own suggestions? I've always used read-aloud picture books as a component of SEL lessons at all levels. I frequently stop to ask students how they think a character might be feeling, or request ideas for ways a character might resolve conflict. Even older students get a kick out of some of the picture books which are written from a humorous angle (Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber, The Great White Man-Eating Shark by Margaret Mahy, The Sneetches and other tales by Dr. Seuss). Role-playing can work with both students and parents. At the younger ages, puppets can act as a brdige to role-playing. Folkmanis makes the most wonderful child-friendly puppets I've used. Conflict is at the heart of every story, so writing and rewriting stories allows students to explore the problem solving process from a character's point of view. Fracturing fairy tales gives students the opportunity to consider all the solutions the main character tried, and brainstorm other ideas which might have solved the problem. Asking themselves questions like "What might happen if my character does this?" allows students to practice the sort of consequential thinking which is a cornerstone of SE health. Finally, inviting students to relate a story we have shared to something significant in their own lives gives them an opportunity to tell a story that really matters to them. At first I have to prompt students to include specific feeling words in their stories, but as they get used to sharing this way, they often spontaneously share how an incident felt to them. How do you incorporate stories and storytelling into your SEL lessons? Do you have any dependable resources you can share? Thank you in advance for participating! Mary Kate

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Barry Kort's picture
Barry Kort
Retired Volunteer Science Educator at the Boston Museum of Science

I would like to see much more use of creative storycraft in our educational system, especially as a vehicle to explore the structure and dynamics of interpersonal conflicts.

It's obvious that storycraft helps develop language arts. And it's fairly obvious that stories which are populated with curious and obstinate characters provide a fluid medium for developing emotional intelligence (mainly with respect to illuminating challenging interpersonal relationships among the cast of characters).

What may not be obvious is that there is also a mathematical component to storycraft, not unlike the mathematical components of Game Theory.

Stories obey a fascinating kind of StoryBook Logic with remarkably deep mathematical roots touching on fundamental aspects of Algebra and Calculus. There is even a fundamental theorem of StoryBook Logic known as Clancy's Theorem, which establishes the basis for the continuity of an unfolding storyline.

Thus it should be possible to promote Language Arts, Emotional Intelligence and Mathematical Reasoning Skills in an integrated module on Creative StoryCraft, while addressing the troublesome conflicts of our storied lives.

Character-driven stories can also be used to generate cartoon animations, using new sites like XtraNormal.Com and GoAnimate.Com. Such animations can then be reposted on personal blogs, on Facebook, and on YouTube.

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

Hi Barry,
Your work has compelling implications. Are there curriculum resources available which would allow teachers to begin implementing StoryCraft lessons?

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