Chris Drage finds a rich source of one of his favourite teaching resources – world stories
Children of all ages love being told stories. Storytelling is immediate, presents no barriers to enjoyment and encourages participation by insisting on the recipient picturing the scenes and characters in his or her own mind. It is deeply woven within all human cultures.
Sadly, storytelling is a highly skilled art form which many busy teachers find difficult to achieve in the classroom. Bring on The Story Spinner, a resource accessible to children of all ages and abilities and one which has already enjoyed huge success with children with special needs and English as an additional language.
Eve Bearne (Cambridge University) and Marilyn Mottram (Birmingham Education) evaluated The Story Spinner over a nine-month period. The key findings from their evaluation are extremely positive. However, as a New Zealand-trained teacher, and very used to using Maori myths and legends with my charges as a stimulus for creative arts like drama, dance and art, it comes as no surprise to me that The Story Spinner is proving so successful in our schools.
I am fully conversant with the enormous impact that a well-told myth or legend has on children. In my experience, children’s best creative and imaginative writing always came from re-telling them a particular Maori legend or Aborigine Dreamtime story, dramatising parts of it and painting scenes from it prior to even touching a pen or pencil.
Now a UK company has produced two sets of dazzling world stories on DVDs: The Story Spinner – seven DVDs with six stories on each; and Stories From Aound the World, three DVDs, each with seven stories. Both sets cater for children at key stages 1-2. There are also five iTunes Store App stories, The Traditional Storyteller series, for parents to use with their children. All the DVD materials are suitable for children from reception age to Year 6, and the apps for three to six-year-olds.
'Filming is high quality and each performer is animated and engaging'
The Story Spinner DVDs contain a diverse mix of stories, folktales and fairy tales from around the world. Your children may already be familiar with some of these tales, such as the well-known classics by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. Others will provide new discoveries, including tales from Cambodia, China and the Philippines.
By offering the stories on DVD, children at all levels can watch and enjoy the stories time and time again, year after year. The DVD format also allows teachers to share stories from other years with children who might need extra support such as children with EAL or SEN. There’s a teachers’ booklet with each DVD to provide inspiration and ideas.
The filming is high quality and each performer is animated and engaging. Among those telling the stories are a number of internationally renowned storytellers including our own UK National Storytelling Laureate, Katrice Horsley. Every story is told direct to the camera. There are no gimmicks, pictures or sound effects; the storyteller simply engages with the class through the expressive use of words, gestures and facial expressions – true to the genre of oral storytelling.
To open up the stories to parents, Day Two Productions’ recently released five of them as The Traditional Storyteller apps through Apple's App Store. Working on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, these apps are aimed squarely at parents with the stories been taken from the Stories From Around The World DVDs.
Each app uses the same high-quality format as the DVDs and is accompanied by interactive, illustrated games that encourage and help develop children’s listening, understanding, speaking, and literacy. The clear, simple interface helps young children to navigate and interact very easily. While they may be initially aimed at parents, they will also be appealing to primary schools starting to use iPod Touches or iPads with their learners (see "Touching the future – kids join in staff development").
On the face of it these DVDs are not inexpensive but balance that with the fact that the resource will never become dated by changes in the curriculum. The stories will always be a versatile teaching tool.
If you are still wavering after checking out The Story Spinner website, why not order the Story Spinner Learning CPD pack (£99 ex VAT) which is full of ideas, inspiration and the plans you need to quickly and easily start using The Story Spinner throughout the entire school. The pack includes a DVD, CD-Rom and booklet. You can watch two teachers take different approaches to using the stories for art, dance, drama, shared reading and writing, and be impressed with the work the children produce. With two complete stories included, it is a sensible way to trial The Story Spinner in your school.
There’s nothing like storytelling to let the words paint rich pictures in the children’s minds, encouraging discussion; developing speaking and listening skills and providing great motivation for reading and writing, even in the early years. Stories offer bountiful opportunities for literacy, drama, art, and other creative activities across the curriculum: children can do their own re-telling; analyse the story structure; discuss the characters; hot seat; make storyboards and, of course, simply enjoy the shared experience of a good story! By utilising ICT in the form of DVDs and apps, Day Two Productions has successfully bonded one of the most ancient and lasting forms of human expression with modern technology.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 4
The Story Spinner
Set of 42 traditional stories professionally told on high-quality videos on seven DVDs for key stages 1 and 2: individual DVD, £99; key stage packs, £199 to £265; school full box set of DVDs, £399; CDP pack, £99 (all prices ex VAT)
Stories From Around the World
Set of 21 stories on three DVDs, for early years, key stage 1 and key stage 2: individual DVD, £99; set of three, £249 (all prices ex VAT)
Story Spinner/Stories From Around The World online shop
The Traditional Storyteller Apps
Five story apps, including games and activities, for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad: 'The Three Little Pigs'; 'How The Elephant Got His Trunk'; 'The Giant Turnip' (told by Katrice Horsley); 'Too Much Talk'; 'Anancie And The Drum Of Common Sense'. £2.99 each from Apple's App Store.
The Traditional Storyteller website