Written by Sarah Littlefield
Story Learning is a way of teaching adults using their personal narratives to stimulate learning. I have used memoir to help illiterate people learn to read, to help veterans deal with war trauma, and to help non-English speakers learn English. Adults and children alike love to speak and read about themselves, so motivation is high.
When I first thought about coming to Costa Rica, I asked Meradith Leebrick if I could work with parents and other adults associated with the children coming to Abriendo Mentes. She and Drew gave me an enthusiastic green light, so the project was started in the winter of 2010. Twelve or more adults, mostly from Nicaragua, came to the class. Working individually, I interviewed them in Spanish, and translated their narratives into English with help from volunteers. Personal photographs were incorporated, taken from digital cameras that I sent down to Potrero ahead of time. I published a small book through IPhoto, and each participant received a copy. An unexpected outcome was that they all wanted to read each others stories, thus expanding their learning.
I returned to continue the project in February of 2011, working with more adults and more volunteers. The outcome was a gorgeous 70 page book, which is now being used for English lessons. We hope to continue the project, adding workbook exercises to facilitate learning. The best thing about Story Learning is that people learn to use meaningful words to talk about themselves and their own lives. Nothing could be more useful!