I’ve been looking through our new Tricky Journeys series, which asks readers to take the place of a famous trickster figures from various multicultural folklore traditions, and it started to remind me of one of my favorite high school teachers.
Mr. Raische used to teach us about revoluntionary moments in world history by walking us through them, asking us to imagine we were there. Just like a storyteller would, Mr. Raische started each lesson by describing the setting – for example, the economic and political conditions in France before the French Revolution. And then when he hit a pivotal moment in the lesson, he’d say, “Ok, so you’re a French peasant. Bread prices have gone up so much that your family is starving. What do you do?” And then we’d suggest possible courses of action. He’d point out the flaws in our plans when our ideas differed from what actually happened, and then reward us by continuing the story when we got it right.
This method of teaching history was way more interesting and memorable than just memorizing the highlighted dates, names, and glossary words from a history textbook. Imagining ourselves in each historical situation helped us to understand the causes of each revolution, and asking us to reason through each course of events gave us a sense of agency about what we were learning.
So what better way for a child to learn about folktales than to have to think like a famous trickster? “Ok, so you’re Spider and you’ve just taunted Lion about having some money he can’t find. He’s about to chase you. What do you do?”
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