And how to weave it into your learning journey

We have told stories for thousands of years, huddled around campfires, sharing tales of war and peace, creating stories to explain the mysteries of nature… We tell stories every day.

How can we tap into our natural desire to share stories to help our children learn? Here are some ideas.

For Literacy

Telling tales orally lends itself well to aiding the understanding and practice of developing narrative structure so it can be a great way to plan a written story, or just to build the skills without having to worry about the mechanics of writing. Many children (my five year old included) can tell a fantastic story before they are yet ready to physically write one down.

Does your child have a favourite book? Together, you could create a story about their chosen character. Imagine a new adventure for Hermione, Hiccup or Dr Dolittle!

Grammar has a bad rep as being dull and dry but it doesn’t have to be. Come up with some silly adjectives and nouns, shut your eyes and pick one and come up with a story sentence about it. If your child is finding out about alliteration, tell a story about an angry alligator or a terrifying turtle.

Using Prompts and Invitations to Play

Set up toys or household objects to create a scene. Invite your child to join you (you probably won’t need to explicitly invite them as if they’re anything like mine they will just see it and dive straight in!). Sit together and watch them as they are drawn to different objects. They may rearrange your scene – that’s great; it means they’re getting involved. As they tell you what’s happening, encourage them by asking them what’s going to happen next, mirror back to them what they have said, help them to extend ideas by adding some adjectives.

Using Music and Art as Inspiration

You can do this in conjunction with props and toys or by itself. Play some music and imagine together what might be happening. Each instrument might remind you of a character or feeling. The mood of the music might suggest an event – fast, jolly music might convey a party, dramatic clashing chords an adventure or fight. A wonderful example of this is Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, where instruments are used to convey the different animal characters.

Look at a picture and imagine you are in the scene. What can you see? How does it feel? Where are you going? It’s fun to extend this by writing from the point of view of the character.

Other Subjects

You can use the concept of storytelling to facilitate learning about all sorts of things. Trying to learn the order of the planets and their distance from the sun? Build on the mnemonic My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Noodles by telling a silly story about it to help build the memory. Finding out about the Battle of Hastings? Retell the tale of the battle from the point of view of a soldier, or look at the Bayeux Tapestry and narrate it. A wise colleague I worked with for many years and a wonderful history teacher told me that the key to bringing history to life was to remember that really it is all a series of stories.

Building Stories Into Your Day

You can use stories to build exercise into your day by telling a story and incorporating yoga movements, or inviting your child to join in with actions and physical movements. At the end of the day, describing a beautiful place and imagining peaceful images can be a serene and meditative way to bond at bedtime.

How do you like to use storytelling at home?