WORKSHOP 1, 24th February 2024

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Our storymaking brain

Jon Klassen includes an Author’s Note at the end of his book The Skull (2023). Below is an excerpt which illustrates the extent to which our brains are prone to fictionalising memories of our experiences. Implications for teachers? The more we entertain our memories of classroom events without processing them in structured ways (e.g. through reflection), the more we risk them turning into something that did not take place at all!
I found this story [The Skull] in a library in Alaska. I was there to do a presentation at the library, and I was looking at books on the shelf before it started. I picked out a book of folktales and looked at the table of contents and saw a story called "The Skull" and thought that was a good title. I stood there and read it, put the book back on the shelf, did my presentation, and left the library.
I thought about the story on the plane back home, and then again when I got home, and then I thought about it every now and then for about a year. Finally, I thought, I should probably read that story again. I couldn't remember the name of the book it had been in, so I wrote to the library in Alaska and told them about the skull story and somehow they found the book and sent me the name. Librarians are really good at that.
But when I sat down and read the story again, I was surprised. It wasn't the story I remembered. In the year in between, my brain had changed it without telling me. [...]
This is a very interesting thing that our brains do to stories. If you read this book once and put it back on the shelf, and a year from now someone asks you how this story went, the same thing will happen: your brain will change it. You will tell them a story that is a little different, maybe in a way your brain likes better.
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