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#393 Key Stage 1 Storytelling – Handford Hall with Wonderful Beast theatre company

Lucy Hilton

What did we do?

We are so proud of the children in our school and celebrate the differences we all have.  However, lots of our children come to us with a significant language gap. The Communication Trust highlights that children who struggle with language at five are six times less likely to reach the expected standard in English at age 11.  Children with poor vocabulary at age five are more than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34 as children with good vocabulary. They are also one and a half times more likely to have mental health difficulties.  With this in mind our project focused on the ability to continue to use language through storytelling. 

We worked with Wonderful Beast who provided us with two storytellers; Hilary Greatorex and Anusha Subramanyam. 

Both Storytellers spent 3 days in our school during March delivering storytelling workshops with children in year 1 and year 2.  Anusha worked with year 1 and used the story ‘HOW NIGHT CAME FROM THE SEA’ to inspire the children to retell the story through dance.  Hilary also used this story and other traditional tales to encourage the children to act and retell the stories using their own words. 

We are currently still working with Wonderful Beast on another project in year 5 but have not previously worked with Hilary or Anusha. 

We involved:

Two year 1 classes – 50 pupils 

Two year 2 claases – 50 pupils 

4 class teachers 

4 Class teaching assistants 

“We had 3 different stories – Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Jack & the Beanstalk.  We showed them to each other as we acted as the characters.  I was little Red Riding Hood and I had to hold the red underwear We had to use our brains to remember the stories.  We had to use words to act the story.”

(Year 2 pupil) 

“Yesterday I learned to act and to listen to a story. I listened really well to the lady and can remember the story.” 

(Year 1 child) 

Summary of impact

Our aims for the project were: 

  • To encourage active participation 
  • To increase verbal proficiency 
  • To encourage use of imagination and creativity 
  • To encourage cooperation between students 
  • To enhance listening skills 
  • To further develop the skills found in the Social & Emotional strand of the Oracy framework (Listening actively & responding appropriately) 

After the project had finished I conducted both staff and pupil perception interviews and I feel that the sessions met our aims. 

I would say that the workshop definitely encouraged the use of imagination and creativity. Dance and music was used well to support the story and pupils came up with some wonderful ideas. Listening skills were also worked on as children had to listen to the music to support them with their dance. Also, very few visuals were provided for the story, I thought this would be a problem for our pupils but they sat and listened very well and joined in with movements throughout the retelling. I was very impressed by how much of the story they could remember throughout the workshops.’’ (Year 1 teacher) 

“Hilary – our workshop lead clearly encouraged the children to build pictures in their minds, to use their bodies to show how someone would feel, explain something through using words and movement to achieve this. The children in all workshops were encouraged to listen and respond. Hilary picked up our use of Oracy and used this in her delivery. All the children were engaged and listening, able to respond to both the stories and the activities.” (Year 2 teacher) 

“From a personal development perspective, it was very useful/helpful to see our helper using music, dance and drama to help pupils to understand and engage with a tricky story concept. It gave me ideas for future literacy teaching. Thank you for arranging the lovely experience for us!” (Year 1 teacher) 

I feel that the following Hullabaloo22 outcomes were achieved through our storytelling project: 

Outcome 1: Education providers enrich the cultural and creative curriculum in their settings 

Outcome 4: Providers support young people to develop creative skills for life, especially supporting mental health and resilience 

Outcome 8: New partnerships develop between community organisations/groups and arts providers 

We have created a good partnership with Wonderful Beast which we hope to continue with in the future. 

The staff found the workshops really useful and will incorporate some of the activities used into future planning. 

The children gained a lot from having 3 consecutive workshops which they were all fully engaged with used them to further enhance their Oracy skills. 

What would we do differently

Next time it would be lovely to share the end performance with an audience other than their year group peers. 

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Lucy Hilton, Handford Hall Primary School
Wonderful Beast theatre company