Once upon a time…

Oral storytelling, the art of communicating a narrative through the spoken rather than printed word is an artform that is centuries old. Before there was writing, there was storytelling. Before human beings even learnt to put their spoken word into any form of alphabet, storytelling was a form of communication. We know that storytelling is universal to all cultures and has been throughout history. From the first cave paintings depicting visual stories, to Chinese shadow puppetry and the traditional tales our children know and love, retold time after time, repetitive language at their core, so that they can be easily remembered and passed on from generation to generation.

So why is it important? Children who have been exposed to a rich, diverse and broad menu of stories from a young age, often go on to become great storytellers themselves. If you can learn how to tell a story you can convince, you can entertain, you can persuade, you can encourage, you can captivate. All important life skills that go way beyond the classroom.

By the end of their Reception year, children should be able to ‘retell stories and narratives using their own words and recently introduced vocabulary, and anticipate appropriate key events in stories.’ (EYFS 2021) We know it is never too early to expose our children to stories and storytelling. From a very young age, storytelling promotes brain development and imagination, develops language and emotions, and strengthens relationships. Language acquisition through storytelling plays a huge part in broadening vocabulary. My own two year old daughter, who had learnt by heart the familiar story ‘We’re Going a Bear Hunt’, then pointed out on a walk one day that she had stepped in ‘thick, oozy, mud’. Those words from the story had become her own; something to be owned, spoken and reused again and again in a variety of new situations. Shiny new tools in her tool box.

In Early Years at The Abbey we run ‘Helicopter Stories’ sessions for our students, a MakeBelieve Arts approach to storytelling. Through this approach, children each have the chance to create and tell their own stories, having them scribed by an adult, giving them voice and value. Each story is then acted out, with other members of the class actors on the class stage. We believe this gives our students the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild, practise using vocabulary they have heard elsewhere and engage in the act of storytelling without worrying about the mechanics of writing it down for themselves. That can come later.

The End.


By Ellen Watson