An Approach to Biblical Storylearning

by Amelia Boomershine

The goal is to “internalize” the story, not just to “memorize” it. It is to have the story become a part of who you are so you can tell it naturally. This takes time, so give yourself time. Relax and enjoy the process.

There are different ways to learn a story. It’s great if you have someone to teach you, or others to work with, but often you’ll be on your own. Here is one approach to learning a story by heart. As you try it out, notice ways you might adapt it to take advantage of your stronger intelligences, or use it to build up weaker ones that you would like to nurture.

Basic Steps

  • Learn the storyline
  • Learn the words
  • Explore original meaning
  • Connect with the story

Learn the storyline

  1. Read the story through, out loud, to get the sounds of it into the air.
  2. Read it again. Say the words slowly enough that you can visualize the story in your minds’ eye, pausing after each sentence so allow an image to form.
  3. Decide what the structure of the story is: How can it be broken into “chunks” (scenes or episodes)?
  4. Write or type the story in sense lines and chunks.
  5. Give each chunk a title; underline verbal threads; circle characters; draw squares around notices of setting (time/place); list key words.
  6. Create a simple storyboard.
  7. Stand up and move through the story, telling the basic storyline to a real or an imaginary audience. Go all the way through, even if you have to make up parts. Then your real or imaginary audience can prompt you, using the storyboard only (not the full written story).

Learn the words

  1. One chunk at a time, work on getting those words off the paper and into your head. Practice, repeat, do gestures, say it while you walk or drive, going to sleep or waking up. It does require mental work and time, but it really IS possible! If it is hard for you, just learn a little at a time, saying a sentence over and over and making a chant, song, drama or game out of it.
  2. Pray the story or whatever chunk you are currently working on. Breathe deeply; ask God for breath and peace. Tell God what you know of the story. God knows the rest so don’t worry if you forget something. Listen to what God might want to tell you. Thank God for the story.

Explore original meaning

Once you have a good handle on the storyline and its words, explore how the story would have been understood by the people who first heard it by looking up key words in Bible dictionaries, reading commentaries, studying maps and other graphics. Check out your church, local community and the Internet for resources. The commentaries will be more interesting and easier to read since you know the story. Reflect on how the original meaning impacts and perhaps amends your understanding of the story.

Connect with the story

Review each chunk of the story and consider how it connects with your life. What were the dynamics happening for the people then and there, especially the spiritual dynamics? Are there ways these same dynamics have been present for you? What questions arise in the story and how would you answer them?

In whatever way you process things, do so in creative response; for example, journaling, poetry, drawing, sculpture, music, dance. Or, just find yourself an audience of one or more and…

Tell the story!