Life Story Work


Much of my personal reading lately has been around the topic of life story.  For example, Curt Thompson wrote a book called Anatomy of the Soul, and in there I encountered this amazing idea that we can actually change our memories. The process of telling our story in the presence of someone else actually changes the physical structure of those memories.  He writes, "the process of reflecting on and telling others your story, and the way you experience others hearing it, actually shapes the story and the very neural correlates, or networks, it represents" (p. 77). I'm mulling over how this might also be useful in my classroom.  I currently have only 2 students who attend separate classes.  They are both English Language Learners.  We often use the Language Experience Approach at the opening of class.    In that scenario, I might ask a question about recent events -- their weekend, for example, and I write what they say, correcting as I go, and then we practice reading it.  I'm wondering how I might expand that, and even see some benefits such as those that Thompson touches on in his book.  Here are some thoughts that I would love to discuss -

  • What types of questions might I use to elicit stories from my students early life?
  • How might I use technology to incorporate more learning around the writing portion?  For example, using voice recognition on Google docs so that the computer captures exactly what the student says.  Then we can work together to correct the grammar, incorporating computer skills into the lesson.
  • How might I continue to be an empathetic listener while still helping the student "record" their story? Perhaps by using a voice recorder, and then playing that recording Google Docs, or using a transcription app like Temi? 
  • Which learning goal is more important -- is the telling and listening of the story the focus, with a secondary result the language learning, or is the language learning the focus, with a possible side benefit of "being heard and known"?  Does it matter?

I am posting this also in the integrating technology discussion group -- I look forward to the discussion! Thanks in advance!






Laura, thanks for starting this promising thread! I am sure that story telling is very useful for students who have faced trauma in their lives, which includes many of our learners.   I think that Language Experience provides a wonderful avenue to literacy/reading instruction and for story telling at the same time. I love LE and have used it a lot   Just a thought on your first question. How about having students share photo albums if they have them? If not, bringing in your own or someone else's family album might get wheels turning.    I look forward to hear more! Leecy