The Story Telling Method

In this post, I will be responding to Cal Newport’s blog post “Monday Master Class: The Story Telling Method” which can be found at

In this post, Cal offers a strategy in which after each class as you are walking to your next activity you attempt to tell a “story” about what you just learned and how it relates to other concepts.  The purpose of this is to take what you just learned and think of it in the big picture context of the course.  By understanding “why this was important” you will help put this into a “framework” making it easier to retain information.

In my opinion, there is a gap between what professors want students to do and what actually happens.  Often, I think professors expect students to be keeping up with the material and understanding as they go.  In reality, many students just “kind of” keep up then hope to cram that understanding portion in at the end right before their test.  This strategy may help to alleviate that as it forces you to be thinking about what you just learned and interacting with the information.

A point that relates to this that is something that I believe Cal pushes towards in this post without really stating point blank is there is a benefit to learning constantly as opposed to all at once.  What I mean by this is if you are going to class and really making sure you understand the material you will be in much better shape towards exams and won’t have as much cramming to do.  This seems obvious but I think it is something many students don’t think about.  Many (and I am all too guilty of this) take a passive approach to going to class and interacting with the material until they get close to a test.

While being in class is important, to truly be a great student you must be present and engaged in the material.  Make sure you are working to be prepared and understand the material the first run through as opposed to finding out you don’t the night before the exam.  This is what many professors assume we do but often it rarely happens.  If we work constantly we can truly be more efficient with our study time.  Without being engaged or trying to find out what we don’t know, we are limiting the depth of understanding we will ultimately achieve.

A quick exercise like the story telling method is a great way to check on your understanding as you go.  If you can’t explain the “why” behind something you know you need to look at it again or get help.  That deep understanding is crucial to having information “stick” and performing well in college.


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