Engaging Stories: The HUMN Project / MnWE Talk

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Tham, Jason. “Engaging Stories: Creating an Ethnographic Literacy Narrative Project in a First-Year Writing Course.” Minnesota Writing and English (MnWE) Conference. Inver Hills Community College, MN. March 27, 2015.



The HUMN Project is a semester-long ethnographic narrative project designed to provide an opportunity for students to think about their literacy practices and those of others, and to consider issues surrounding literacy acquisition. Students interview people on the University of Minnesota campus (hence H“UMN”) to collect accounts of how individuals remember learning to read and write; the conditions under which they continue reading and composing; and the influences and values that shape their literate practices. This presentation aims to enlighten teachers to explore ways for advancing practices that complicate literacy values and narrative construction.

More: Handout on The HUMN Project descriptions and course calendar.

View this presentation deck on SlideShare.

‘Don’t give them 4. Give them 2+2’

Effective storytelling is among the few units I teach in my first-year composition course. Every semester, I show Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk, “The Clues to a Great Story,” to the students and ask them to reflect on the traditional methods in storytelling and how they can tweak the ways to make their personal narratives interesting.

Following the steer to tell compelling stories, Entrepreneur publishes the following infographic to explain why “readers” today don’t have time to read anymore and how strategic communicators could cut through the digital noise to market to their audience. Essentially, the secrets are to:

  1. Show, not tell. The same-old advice from the ad folks – transform exposition into experience.
  2. Give bite-sized information. Follow Stanton’s strategy – no one has the time to digest huge chunk of text anymore.
  3. Write attention-grabbing headlines, copy. You have 3 seconds. Capture my attention!
  4. Use personal narratives. Audience wants real stories. The more dramatic the better.
  5. Give information in bulk. Avoid tediousness, save my time by giving me the package (information).

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