Knowledge and skills
- Reading for pleasure
- Wider reading
Stories are all around us. Even children (and adults) who are not keen readers like some type of story. It’s just a case of realising how broad the definition of story is and tapping into children’s interests.
Look out for National Storytelling Week, which is always in January, and is a great antidote to the post-Christmas malaise. Start by seeing how many stories you can gather together as a class – if each child creates a new story, then collects one from someone else, that’s 60 new stories you have to share and enjoy. For younger children, focus on stories based around a theme to avoid overwhelming them with choice.
First, talk to the children about where they think stories come from and what constitutes a story. You could create a mind map to show the definition of story and where children can find story ideas. Point out that, in its broadest sense, a story is just an event that is recounted or told. As well as novels and picture books, try to get children to think about jokes, news stories, video games, TV, blogs, cartoons, audiobooks, images, the internet, comics, family history, songs, film, theatre, drama, even their birth story.
Ideas for story starters
To ignite children’s imaginations, set up your classroom with several ‘story stations’. Each station should have a different type of stimulus. These could include:
- a short clip from a film or advert
- an image
- a set of descriptive words
- a bottle with an enigmatic note inside it
- a shopping bag with a wallet, bus ticket, photo, name and address
- an old coin or toy
- a short series of emails from two characters on the whiteboard
- the headline and introduction from a magazine
- an audio from a news bulletin or a recording of a snippet of intriguing conversation
- a comic strip.
For younger children try to choose stimuli that have an obvious link to your theme. Older children may find quirkier objects more intriguing. Ask the children to explore the resources and use one that inspires them to make up a story of their own. The stories should be oral to make it accessible to all ages, and no more than a minute or two long so that you have time to listen to them.
Another lovely way to celebrate stories is for children to collect a tale that is not their own. Again, this could be linked to the theme of snow, or left wide open. Stories could be collected from a family member, friend, teacher, or from a news source that they have researched. Children may find many story ideas, but ask them to choose the best one for a storytelling finale.
Make a story tree
Ask the children to select one of their stories – their own or one they have collected – to add to a story tree. Give each child a traditional luggage label and ask them to use the limited space on one side of the label to capture their story idea. They could write a sentence or two about it or just a few key words that will act as an aide-mémoire. Some children may enjoy the challenge of summarising and promoting their story in two or three sentences – almost like the blurb on the back of a book. On the other side of the label they should write their name and class. Children can then decorate their labels and tie or attach them to a story tree. This could be a simple 2D collage, a 3D tree made in art or even a real tree.
Invite the children to share their stories. If they need reminding about the plot of their story, they could make storytelling cards of key moments or have three or four visual reminders. They can either tell their stories ‘live’ in front of the class or you can film the children and load the stories onto a tablet computer for children to listen to at their leisure. Finally, hold some special storytelling assemblies, where the best stories are chosen and told. You could do this every day during National Storytelling Week or once a week over half a term to include more stories.
For more information...
If you would like to run a storytelling event in school during National Storytelling Week, there are guidelines and information on the Society for Storytelling website.
Check out a selection of short stories that will ignite learning here.