‘Storytelling’ by Pie Corbett
Storytelling and story-making
The idea of story-making was initially developed with my colleague, Mary Rose, through a teacher research project based at the International Learning and Research Centre in South
Gloucestershire, funded by what was known as the DFES Innovations unit. We explored the use of storytelling as a tool for helping children build up a bank of narrative patterns that they could then call upon when they wish to create their own stories.
Over time, local authorities (LAs) and clusters of schools have found that story-making is a powerful strategy for both improving boys’ writing and helping children who struggle with literacy to gain success. It is also a powerful strategy for children for whom English is an additional language because it enables them to build on their knowledge of storytelling in their first language and supports the development of the additional language. The new narrative progression attached to the Primary Framework for literacy identifies the progression in narrative writing alongside storytelling.
The idea is quite simple. The first stage is for children each year to learn to tell orally a bank of stories, for example, The Gingerbread Man in Reception and then another ten in Year 1. This means that they enter Year 2, knowing up to 20 stories. Thereafter they might work with one story every half-term, therefore acquiring a bank of about 50 stories across the primary years.
These stories would come from the wide range of cultures in our diverse society.
‘big’ patterns that are revisited, such as ‘quest’ or ‘journey’ stories – in this way basic plots can act as blueprints for the imagination. As Samuel Johnson said: ‘The same images, with very little variation, have served all the authors who have ever written.’ the building blocks of narrative – common characters, settings, events, the rise and fall of narrative patterning the flow of sentences, the syntactical patterns the vocabulary – especially, connectives that link and structure narrative such as: once upon a time, one day, so, next, but, finally
Most importantly, they develop an imaginative world of images that can be drawn upon and daydreamed about to invent new stories.
The stories are taught in a multi-sensory manner. Actions are used to make the tales, especially the key connectives, memorable. Each story has a story map or board as a visual reminder.
Activities such as puppets, role-play, hot-seating and acting out are used to bring the tale alive and make it memorable. At the start of this work, most of the children in Reception classes were unable to tell a story. In our sample group, only two per cent of Reception children were able to retell a whole story. By the end of the year, 76 per cent of the children were able to retell a whole story with 100 per cent able to retell a good chunk.
© Pie Corbett 2008. Used with kind permission
© Pie Corbett 2008
2 of 10 The National Strategies Primary
‘Storytelling’ by Pie Corbett
The story-making process
IMITATION – familiarisation
Retelling a story until it can be told fluently
Multi-sensory approach, made memorable
INNOVATION – adapting a well-known tale
Substitution, addition, alteration, change of viewpoint and reusing the basic story pattern INVENTION – creating your own new story
Building up a story – drawing, drama, images, video, first-hand experience, location, quality reading, etc.
Imitation – familiarisation
Listen – join in – retell.
Communal retelling involves everyone saying the same words in the same way we might learn a song together. Through constant repetition, the children end up knowing the story by heart. This is crucial for young children, those new to the English language as well as older pupils who have missed out on internalising narrative patterns. It is great fun, provides a