Principle 1 – Ways of Knowing

“How do cultures come to acquire information? In some cultures, information is gathered through intensive research in libraries and on the Internet—for example, in the United States. These cultures appreciate evidence that can be measured and documented through such media.

On the other hand, other cultures acquire information through “non-academic” sources—for example, through elders, nature, spirits, or symbols. Some cultures do not have the same quantity and quality of experience with books or similar forms of research. These cultures may place greater value on information and knowledge acquired through oral tradition.”


This principle explains that not all cultures learn or get access to information in the same manner. For example, in the United States we learn and gather information through research. We use encyclopedias, technical journals, trade-related papers, and of course the Internet. We are also a media-rich society. Televisions, DVDs, MP3s, and video are also sources of information.

However, as this paper points out, many cultures gather information from an oral tradition, through storytelling. I like the art of storytelling. It is entertaining, teaches the storyteller many important skills that are useful in business and other areas of life, and provides both the storyteller and the audience a better undertanding and appreciation of language.

Storytelling engages the student to speak with a variety of different intonations. It also gives them the opportunity to learn and use new vocabulary.

Storytelling is a great way for students to share their culture with other students and to learn their simmilarities and differences from American culture. Every person remembers stories from their childhood whether they be Grimms Fairy Tales, Disney, or local, cultural, or religious-based stories.

An introductory writing assignment can have each student write a story from their childhood. Another assisnment can have them write a story for their child, brother, sister, nephew, niece, etc. Students can also write stories by incorporating images from magazines and newspapers, include photographs, and make their own drawings in addition to writing.

A few years ago, I used a storytelling computer program in class to encourage my students to speak, to tell their stories.

This program used graphics, text, and audio. It told the story of storytelling throughout many different cultures. It was well-received by the students.

I am going to introduce this program to my class, create conversations, and adapt it to encourage my students to write.

This program also taught me some unexpected information about one of my students at a previous school. I asked my students why writing was important to storytelling. Some students understood – writing preserved stories.

One student was unresponsive. I asked her if she or her family exchanged letters. She answered no. I asked if she read newspapers or magazines. She answered no.

She told me that she only watched TV or listened to the radio. She never wrote or read both in the United States and in her home country.

This opened my eyes. At the time, it was my first experience working with a student whom I believed may have been illiterate.

As I recollect this story, I wonder if some of my students really have any experience writing. Did they write in school? Did any of their job training involve any reading or writing or was the training done orally? Did family and relatives write to each other or were all family communication done via the phone or in person?

Maybe my students don’t write because they never had any need to write!


About acohen843

I am a writer and ESL teacher who enjoys the challenge of starting businesses. Currently, I am a JuicePlus distributor ( who is using this business opportunity as the foundation of a social entrepreneurship project.
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