Storytelling at I CAN’s Meath School

language and literacy at meath

Since 2011, we have enhanced and developed a storytelling approach to support literacy at I CAN’s Meath School. This has been a reflective process taking different aspects of our work with drama specialist, Louise Coigley and educational writer, Pie Corbett, tailoring their approaches to the needs of our learners at Meath.

We have worked on the premise, ‘If you can’t speak a sentence you can’t write one.’  But, ‘ If you haven’t  been in a story you can’t write one.’ Learners ‘being’ in a story has raised their level of attainment in writing.

Storytelling sessions are part of the weekly English curriculum and consist of:

  • A ‘warm up’. This is usually fun ‘call and response’ song or rhyme. All the children and all the adults in the room participate and the children may be asked to chant the rhyme is different ways, very sad, cross, like a robot etc.
  • Simple props aid easy identification of characters. A wide variety of hats, waistcoats, scarves are used as costumes. Masks and household items are used to add interest to the stories.
  • The story is told by a member of staff who encourages learners to participate either using their own words, or prompted words and to act out the story and everyone in the class group gets some sort of part in the story.
  • Repeated rhythmical phrases are brought into the story to add structure. These build the participation of those whose turn it is to watch and these phrases are remembered when it come to sit down later and write.
  • Photographs are taken as prompts to retell the story later. The story will be retold many times before the children start to write. So they know every twist and turn of the plot.
  • Significant vocabulary is planned before the session by the teacher and Speech and Language therapist and special vocabulary is pre-taught and explained to enrich the learning.

Only when all of this has been enjoyed do the children start to record their story on paper… but this might not be as prose yet!

Many of Meath learners struggle to compose and write stories. Sentences may be written out as a series of symbols .To an outsider they might look like hieroglyphics. The children can then read back their own symbols before putting the story into the written word.

purple-class-language-and-literacyPurple class’s latest story

Storytelling is immensely enjoyable for the children and this method has enabled them to not only memorise stories but to imitate and innovate their own. This has had a significant impact on their levels of confidence and hence attainment in writing.

by Pam Cosh, Deputy Head Teacher at I CAN’s Meath School