I like being in a storytelling school because…
what is a storytelling school?
The basic idea is simple: learning to tell stories from memory is a great way to learn all sorts of essential skills. Children who fill up with stories by listening and retelling create an inner store of language, ideas and imagination. They will then draw upon this store in their work and life. Speaking, listening, confidence, empathy, ideas, facts, sequences, plots … you name it, storytelling can teach it.
In a storytelling school this idea is placed at the heart of learning. All students are taught a repertoire of stories for every year that they are in the school, linked up to their topic and literacy targets. In primary schools this is often planned out as one story every mini-term, from Foundation through to Year 6, so that students graduate with a repertoire of more than 40 stories.
These 40 stories are linked into the school curriculum so that the tales can be used to generate ideas and enthusiasm for topic learning and literacy. Learning in this way has proved enjoyable and effective for teachers and students alike. How to do this is explained in detail in our teacher’s handbook.
The handbook explains how to:
- tell stories to your class;
- teach your class to retell the stories;
- develop and innovate from a learned story;
- use storytelling to improve writing standards;
- plan across the curriculum using the storytelling school approach.
To order a copy of the Storytelling Schools Handbook please click here.
why be a storytelling school?
We believe that all children benefit from developing their storytelling skills throughout their education. In schools where improving basic literacy levels is a priority, the Storytelling Schools method has been used to quickly raise standards. Storytelling provides a natural way of developing rich and active story language, for children to recycle in their own story making and writing. In this way attainment can rise quickly and be sustained. In other schools, where low literacy levels are not the main issue, the simple joy and magic of storytelling is seen as a crucial part of an all-round education, a core skill for learning and sequencing ideas, a way of developing skills and confidence in speaking and performing, and a way of developing ideas about stories that enable high achievers to go further in their story making.
what kinds of stories?
Most storytelling schools start off with oral tradition stories, as they are usually the most easily told. Once mastered, storytelling techniques can then be applied to non-fiction, literary stories, biography, history, and geography … to almost anything where there is a sequence to be learned.
After it has been learned as an oral story, most schools then link the story to the teaching goals for that term. In literacy, this will include shared and independent writing, innovation and invention, and non-fiction text types. In other words, the story can be used to teach all the narrative aspects of the literacy curriculum.
For other subjects, such as history, geography and science, the content of the story provides the basis for further explorations of the topic. Most teachers find the method provides a quick, efficient, engaging and enjoyable way to learn.
who are we?
Chris Smith PhD is a storyteller, workshop leader, musician and author.
Chris is the Director of Storytelling Schools and has been researching and developing the storytelling schools idea for the past ten years. He led the Oxford Story Museum outreach program between 2005 and 2012 and previously worked for UNICEF in the Middle East.
Connect with Chris on linked in
Pie Corbett is a poet, author, educationalist and is the leading exponent of the use of storytelling in education. His Talk for Writing methods are commonly used in schools throughout the country and beyond. Pie is a founding associate of Storytelling Schools.
website: – www.talk4writing.co.uk
Adam is a co-founder of Storytelling Schools. He is a children’s author, storyteller, trainer and educationalist. Adam has worked with Chris Smith supporting Storytelling Schools since 2007 as a trainer and mentor.
Nanette is a founding associate of Storytelling Schools. She is a trainer, mentor, and works as Literacy Coordinator at Pegasus Primary School, a Storytelling School on the Blackbird Leys estate. Nanette works with schools to adopt the storytelling schools model and has developed detailed schemes for integrating storytelling into literacy learning.
Jules Pottle has been in primary teaching for over twenty years as a classteacher, a science primary specialist teacher and a museum educator. Jules uses storytelling in all aspects of her work and really enjoys this imaginative approach to learning. She’s very excited to be adding ‘storytelling trainer’ to her list of roles! In her spare time, she’s involved with a community theatre group and loves being on stage or directing. In fact, Jules likes anything that involves stories and being creative. Jules is co-author with Chris Smith on our upcoming book Science through Storytelling. For more information about Jules please visit www.sciencethroughstory.com .
Kate Barron teaches at School 21 in London. Kate is passionate about driving forward the storytelling approach in her own school and in others. She has seen at first hand how the approach makes literacy fun and exciting as well as developing children into confident and articulate communicators. Kate enjoys focusing on integrating the storytelling approach with learning based around high quality children’s books.
more about us
Our group’s mission is to encourage the creation of more storytelling schools because we believe it is a wonderful and much-needed way to make schools more engaging and effective, especially in areas of social deprivation.
We are all experienced trainers and consultants and can provide training, planning and mentoring to schools wishing to adopt the storytelling model.
The University of Winchester’s evaluation report for the Storytelling Schools pilot project in Tower Hamlets highlights the positive impact that the Storytelling Schools approach has had on children’s attainment in an area of high social deprivation. Levels of attainment in writing at the end of the evaluation period were above the national and local averages.
The evidence suggests that the Storytelling Schools approach builds children’s confidence and engagement with writing and overall has a positive impact on most children. Significantly, ‘most of the children surveyed said that they enjoyed writing, were positive about their identity as writers and storytellers and thought that Storytelling Schools’ methods had helped them learn to write.’ This was true for both genders and crucially, children with English as an Additional Language and in receipt of Free School Meals shared this level of enthusiasm.
To summarise the main findings:
- The number of children achieving Level 4 or above in writing at the end of KS2 was 6% above the national average
- The Storytelling Schools approach is very effective for children with EAL and those in receipt of FSM, children in these groups made at least expected progress in writing with two thirds exceeding expectations
- 87% of children with EAL achieved Level 4 or above in writing, 5% above the national average
- All pupils made good progress in writing (on average children met expectations for progress in writing with two thirds of children exceeding expectations)
- 25% of pupils made one full level of progress (or 6 APS) in one year (expected progress is half a level of progress or 3 APS per year)
- Boys and girls made similar progress in their writing attainment demonstrating that the Storytelling Schools approach benefits both genders equally
- Pupils reported positive attitudes towards storytelling and writing (84% said they enjoyed writing), held positive attitudes about themselves as writers and thought that the Storytelling Schools approach had helped them learn to write
- Teachers’ confidence to use the Storytelling Schools approach increased during the period of the project
You can download the whole report by following the link below.
steps to becoming a storytelling school
Most storytelling schools plan for one main story per mini-term or six main stories per year. Once the stories have been learned, the teacher normally links them to the teaching of literacy and a particular topic for that term. This means that in a storytelling school the way of planning and learning is restructured around the story. This is not normally an ‘add-on’ to existing schemes, but a way of restructuring learning throughout the school, often linking to existing topics in the curriculum.
Becoming a storytelling school usually involves:
- Selecting the stories to be learned
- Planning how teaching will fit around the stories
- Creating a set of resources for staff (stories, sample lessons, enrichment links)
- Consulting and convincing staff about the value of the approach
- Training and support to prepare teachers for adoption at launch
- Ongoing management and review of progress to adjust and adapt.
Steps to becoming a storytelling school a checklist of steps how to become a storytelling school (pdf document)
how much does it cost?
Some schools have become storytelling schools after simply attending a single two-hour training session. In these schools the head teacher and literacy coordinator have taken the idea and applied it within their school, running their own training and staff meetings themselves. With the publication of The Storytelling School Handbook for Teachers, we hope that more schools will take on storytelling in this way.
However, many schools have found that they need a bit more support than this to pass on the idea to their staff sustainably and systematically.
Often trainers and consultants are used to help plan the storytelling curriculum, to demonstrate various aspects of teaching storytelling, deepening links to writing and so forth. A typical package of support for a new school might include:
- assistance with planning
- one whole school inset day (launch)
- four twilight training sessions over the year
- a set of handbooks and other resources for the staff
This can be a total cost of around £3,000 for an individual school. Where training is offered to a group of schools, the cost is slightly higher but can proportionally divided between the group. For more details on the costs and content of our training packages please download our Training packages information .
Some schools also request class-by-class support to demonstrate teaching of storytelling and in situ mentoring to help individual teachers get storytelling going with their children.
Ultimately how much support is needed depends on the needs of the particular school and in particular the internal capacities and time available from senior staff in the school to offer direct training and supervision themselves.
Many schools all over the country are joining our network and becoming an accredited storytelling school. If you would like to join, use our logo in your school literature and display your accredited status on a certificate, please open the pdf below and respond. We’re all looking forward to welcoming you into our community!
Currently we have three titles in the Storytelling Schools series all published by Hawthorn Press.
You can find out more about each book by clicking on the title:
The Storytelling School Handbook for Teachers
147 Traditional Stories for Primary School Children to Retell
Science through Stories
For a review of the Handbook for teachers and the 147 stories collection please click here . To hear what BBC wildlife presenter George McGavin has to say about Science through Stories please visit http://tinyurl.com/sciencethroughstories .
**STOP PRESS** History Through Stories to be published on 31 May, please click on the link for more information about this wonderful new book HistoryThroughStoriesPR .
listen to stories
To hear Chris telling stories click here:
Ganesh Gets Married
Ganesh Gets Married
Honey and Trouble
Honey and Trouble
The Chicken and the Eagle
The Chicken and the Eagle
The Bird and the Forest Fir
The Bird and the Forest Fir
To hear Adam telling stories…
Baba Yaga’s Black Geese
Baba Yaga’s Black Geese
and you can search for more stories on the Story Museum website
watch the stories
Here you will find a series of videos which will help you to understand the process of ‘Hear Map Step Speak’.
They may be helpful if you are learning to use the process yourself or if you want explain the process to others. They should not be thought of as a complete training course as there is much more to the Storytelling Method than can be shown in video clips.
Should you want to know more, you can find the whole process explained in our book “The Storytelling School Handbook for Teachers” or you can invest in some training.
HEAR MAP STEP SPEAK – a process for remembering a story
In this video Chris explains the first step in the process. As you watch, you may want to look out for the following points:
Everyone can be a storyteller – every teacher and every child.
The story is told without a book or pictures to look at – every child creates their own visualisation of the story.
The storyteller may lead a choral story or encourage participation from their listeners or simply tell the story whilst the children listen.
The storyteller must be engaging so energy and expression is important.
Chris is an experienced storyteller so he demonstrates certain skills. Look for the following:
Characterisation in body and voice
Emotions clearly portrayed
Movement only when there is a purpose for that movement
Once you have heard the story you can make simple maps to provide visual cues to aid recall of the story. In the next video, Chris explains how to draw story maps to internalise the most important moments in the story. As you watch, you may want to take note of the following:
Mapping is not art – the drawings should be quick and simple.
Mapping is a quick exercise which should only take 5-10 minutes.
Every child will map differently. As long as the child understands their map, it doesn’t matter if no-one else can make sense of it.
As soon as the map has been drawn, the child should ‘tell’ their map to a partner to recall the meaning of each picture.
Keep the maps for use in later re-telling or as the base for a new innovated story.
If you would like the children to remember particular words to use in their re-telling, to expand their vocabulary, you can always return the map later and add those words. To begin with, the maps should be drawn by the children for their own re-telling and not be over complicated by words or phrases you choose for them.
In the next video, Chris explains how to teach the children to step the story. Stepping is a kinaesthetic process and will help those children that need to physically move through the story to remember the sequence. The Storytelling Method is an inclusive system and so this kinaesthetic step is important to engage those who work best in this way. As you watch, look for the following:
All children learn differently. Some prefer mapping others prefer stepping but both will help the children to retain the story. All children step the story differently. Some children can be very concise. Others find this hard and need to be encouraged to whittle the story down to just the most important parts. It is important to appreciate any shared stepping as we want to encourage performance with energy and expression.
As you watch the children stepping you may be aware that you begin to visualise the story once again in your own mind. Therefore, even the children who never perform their stepping in front of others will still benefit from watching others stepping.
In this next video, Chris demonstrates how to develop storytelling in narrative form, first in pairs then to larger audiences. As you watch, be aware of the following:
The children tell the story fluently in their own words. Initially, this will be in simple words and repetitive phrases, padding out the skeleton of the story sequence learned in mapping and stepping. In time, this can be developed, with practice, into a narrative with elevated vocabulary and a sense of pace and mood in the expression.
The children will need to play warm up games to improve their fluency.
Smaller groups will lower the anxiety when learning to tell stories.
Always remember to appreciate any performance.
We provide these resources free of charge for you to use in your classroom and to share with friends and colleagues. Please share these resources to help us spread the word about Storytelling Schools. Please sign up for our newsletter so we can let you know when we have added new resources to this page.
Storytelling Schools Poster
The award-winning illustrator of the Storytelling Schools series, Shirin Adl, has created an inspiring poster for our new information leaflet. With nine top tips for creating great stories and beautiful, detailed black and white illustrations this wonderful poster would be a fantastic addition to any classroom wall. It can be enlarged to A3 for display or shrunk to A5 to be glued into the front of children’s books Storytelling Schools poster . We also have a version for children to colour in themselves Storytelling Schools colouring in .
With our new book History Through Stories about to come out we thought we’d share with you one of the wonderful tales included in this wonderful new book. The Great Fire of London tells the story of how the fire began and how the city tried to put it out. You can watch Chris telling this story on our Youtube channel.
To celebrate the coming of the new year we’re sharing one of many brilliant stories which can be found in The Storytelling School, handbook for teachers. The Storytelling Doll makes us think about what we really want our students to learn and what education is all about. We hope you’ll enjoy sharing it with your class and will feel inspired to teach your students to tell stories.
One day, half day and twilight training courses
Oxford: We are running a selection of one day and twilight training courses at Wood Farm School in Oxford. Click here for an overview of the dates and training topics. New for this year are our creative skills courses designed to inspire creative confidence and focussing on developing the creative skills of the participants.
Our next training session at Wood Farm Primary School is on 18 January 2017 when we’ll be running a full day Networking and Refresher day. Please see the ‘now booking‘ section below for more details, contact us or call 01865 748447 to make a booking.
Training Skills course 2016 to 2017
Bookings for our popular three day Training Skills course are now closed for 2016 to 2017. This training course is perfect for those wishing to develop their teacher training skills for teaching the Storytelling Schools method to other teachers. If you are a teacher experienced in using the Storytelling Schools approach and wanting to share your success with colleagues then this training is for you. We plan to run this course again in 2017 to 2018 so please do contact us to register your interest.
Please contact us for further information or to make a booking.
In school training
If you can’t make it to one of our training days or if you would like training for the whole school then we can deliver a range of different types of training in your school (or to your partnership of schools). This might be a full day INSET, twilight training, modelling session or helping you to integrate storytelling into your whole school curriculum. Get in touch today and we can help build a training programme to suit your needs.
Our experienced trainers have delivered talks at many different conferences demonstrating the Storytelling Schools method and how it can benefit your delegates. Please contact us to find out more about what we can offer.
Chris Smith is a storyteller, trainer and writer, and co-author of The Storytelling School, a teachers’ handbook.
Adam Guillain is an ex-teacher, trainer and writer and co-author of The Storytelling School, a teachers’ handbook.
Nanette Stormont is a teacher trainer and mentor, and is now leading Storytelling Schools in London. Nanette is co-author of History through Stories.
Jules Pottle has been in primary teaching for over twenty years as a classteacher, a science primary specialist teacher and a museum educator. Jules is co-author of Science through Stories.
What Teachers Said About Their Storytelling Training
I was already a complete convert to the storytelling approach but following a move to a new school was struggling trying to pass on my enthusiasm. This training has given me the skills and knowledge to lead change across the school, inspiring the teachers and creating an exciting story-rich school environment.
Woodstock Primary, Oxfordshire
The training was very useful because it gave me an overall idea of where to take our school next. It taught me how to pass on my knowledge of storytelling to the rest of the staff so it becomes embedeed in our school
Mayflower Primary. Tower Hamlets London
The training has consolidated my understanding of lots of the key aspects of storytelling and given me a wide range of practical ideas to implement and embed storytelling in the school
Wood Farm Primary Oxford
The training pulls together all the elements of how to become a storytelling school. It is a fantastic opportunity to share success and challenges and to come away with fresh inspiration every time.
Our Ladies RC Primary, Tower Hamlets
A fantastic forum for embedding storytelling throughout the school. The process by which storytelling can be planned and implemented was clearly explained and shared with lots of practical examples of what storytelling looks like in practice. The resources were fantastic. I can’t wait to see the results back in the school.
St Mary’s Primary, Chippenham
Oxford Training Days at Wood Farm School
18 January 2017 9am to 3.30pm Networking and refresher day: keeping the approach fresh and new is an ongoing challenge. This one day course provides a refresher for teachers working in Storytelling Schools. The course will be run as an action learning day with presentations from Storytelling Schools’ trainers on developments in the approach, skills based training as well as networking exercises and discussion with other teachers. The day will be led by Storytelling Schools’ Director Chris Smith. £120 + VAT
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01865 748447 to book your place.
20 January 2017 9am to 3.30pm Storytelling Skills: Finding your voice
This course will take you into greater depth as a storyteller, teaching you how to plan your telling, develop the main functions in the story and improve your delivery to your audience. During the day we will look at:
- Choosing a story
- Preparing the first telling
- Developing action, description and reflection
- Developing character and narrator
- Developing mood
- Developing physicality
- Adaptation for the audience
We will work throughout the day with the storytelling toolkit. A guide to storytelling will be provided free as part of the course. There will be a chance to tell a story to a group of children during the day. £120 +VAT
Please email email@example.com or call 01865 748447 to book your place.