Storytelling for effective learning

Storytelling for effective learning Education Beyond Borders Podcast

What makes us unique are our thoughts. Welcome to Speak Your Mind!

Speak Your Mind! – “Storytelling for effective learning” by Dan Manolescu.

You don’t need to be an orator to tell your audience a nice story. What you need is something that people will understand, follow, and remember for a long time“.

In this ever-changing society of active, avid readers, stories have become an integral part of our culture and civilization. If we are true to ourselves, we go instinctively for the intensive cultivation of the mind.

With little time left for perusing a good source of information, let’s say a book, a magazine, or a journal, readers are attracted to a literary form that can be easily absorbed and digested. We sometimes look for a shorter format, but at the same time for something that is appealing, pithy, informative, and also entertaining. In the middle of our daily routine of jokes, anecdotes, novels, novellas, movies, plays, songs, text messages, memes, we are never satisfied unless or until we can read, or we can hear a good story.

Authors create new stories with their own characters through the activity of storytelling. The text of these stories does not describe any real facts, but the message and the lessons we learn will stay with us if and because they engage the audience’s imagination.

A good story, because of its simplicity, will stay with us for a very long time. We always go back to the stories we heard when we were young or younger, and we usually expect a nice story when we read a book or watch a movie. Stories are essentially the basic element of literature, and can be used as a joke, as a lesson in humanity, or to illustrate a point during a debate.

Here are just a few examples of good stories that will make learning some words and expressions easy and fun:


How we got the word SINCERE? Its etymology is a story in itself: Long before people used money as a medium of exchange, they used to give each other gifts. The legend says that small objects of art, like small stones depicting gods, animals, or birds, were offered as gifts. When such gifts were handed down from generation to generation, because they were broken or had small cracks, the gift givers used to patch up the irregularities with wax (cera in Latin). When the present was given, the receivers wanted to make sure that the art object was real or new, so they asked: sine cera? In other words, “without wax?” And this is how we got the word SINCERE. In less than ten lines the reader will remember the etymology or the history of the word.


Another good example of a good story would include a quick perusal of Shawn Callahan’s blog posted on January 8, 2015 and filed in Business Storytelling. The author begins his writing with an historical anecdote which some people deem to be factual, but stories can be deceiving. 

Paul Costello begins: “Back in the 1870s the White House wasn’t the most comfortable place to relax as the President. Ulysses S. Grant would often unwind with a whiskey and cigar in the lobby of the [Willard] hotel. Word got around that the President could be found in the hotel foyer so people would arrive seeking favors or just getting the ear of the President.  After a time, people became known as LOBBYISTS.” Woe, I thought, what a great way for that word to come about. Then Paul said, “but that’s just a myth. The term was coined from the gathering of Members and peers in the lobbies of the UK House of Parliament.

“Turning a blind eye”

“During the battle of Copenhagen in 1801, the flagship commander signaled to Lord Nelson that he should stop attacking the Danish fleet and retreat. Nelson held a telescope to his blind eye and said, ‘I do not see the signal.’ Having disobeyed the order, Nelson continued to attack and won the battle. This incident has come to be known as turning a blind eye.” (Archer, 2021)

“To lose one’s marbles”

“To lose one’s marbles is to lose one’s mind. In the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny, Humphrey Bogart likened insanity with marbles when he showed his character, the demented Lt. Cmdr. Queeg, restlessly jiggling a set of metal balls under stress in court. […] The expression has now been shortened to simply losing it.” (

 “To butter someone up”

To butter someone up meaning “to praise or flatter someone, usually to gain a favor,” is said to have originated in ancient India, where a customary religious act included throwing butter balls at the statues of gods to seek fortune and their favor. (Adapted from:


“The word MILE comes from the Latin mille – ‘one thousand,’ referring to a thousand complete paces, left foot and right foot, of the legion’s formal parade step, approximately 5,200 feet, the regular Roman way of measuring distance between towns.” (Berlitz, 2005, p. 17)                                      


If you prefer a shorter story, you can try the word WINDOW. Centuries ago, there were no windows, but most houses had a small opening to let the air in. The people called such an opening the wind eye, which in time became window.  

You don’t need to be an orator to tell your audience a nice story. What you need is something that people will understand, follow, and remember for a long time.

Most narratives or stories will be adapted or replicated, and some of them will create a trend. Take for example, the Aesop stories, or the love stories of Romeo and Juliet, Eloise and Abelard, to name just a few. What makes them so interesting is the fact that you will find more or less the same story in various cultures, across centuries, and with the same life lessons to be told.

About the Author

Dan Manolescu is a freelance ESL Instructor with 33 years of teaching experience.

Dan Manolescu, Verbalists Education & Language Network

He is the award winning author of TIPS, A Guidebook for Teaching Excellence in ESL Published by Gatekeeper Press in 2019 and recently Memory and Imagination published by Book Writing Experts in 2022.

Dan has also published articles about language and the process of teaching in journals like Trends in Humanities and Social Sciences (“Experience Magic: Read”), The Middle Eastern Journal of Research and Social Studies (“The Magic and Mysteries of Teaching ESL”), the Journal of Practical Studies in Education (“The Quest for Knowledge,” “Why Read the Masters?”), as well as book reviews in the Journal of Critical Studies in Language and Literature (“Rabindranath Tagore’s Śāntiniketan Essays,” “The Book of William. How Shakespeare’s First Folio Conquered the World,” “The Invention of Nature. The Adventures of Alexander Humboldt,” “A Place for Everything. The Curious History of Alphabetical order.”)

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