The children in our childminding provision love reading books, independently to themselves or the dolls and teddies – and cuddled up with one of us. They also love storytelling – often without a book in sight! Story telling is a wonderful way we engage all the children in our provision from the very youngest who sits enraptured as we use our voices and props to catch their attention to the older children who use their wonderful imaginations to tell everyone their own stories.
So… are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
The best books for prompting early years storytelling are ones which capture the children’s imaginations with big, bold pictures which complement the words and rhymes or short sentences which bounce the story along. If the words in a child’s storybook are clumsy they will lose interest – we often change them, adapting the story line for the age and stage of development of the audience through the week.
It might seem obvious, but before we tell stories, we make sure all the children are sitting comfortably and can see what is happening. This means tidying up so they are not distracted, checking there isn’t a draft where they are setting, ensuring lots of natural light and, where necessary providing cushions or soft blankets on cold days for outdoor storytelling.
If we are reading quickly because we are short of time, we simply sit and read from a book – if we have plenty of time or we are planning a scheduled daily reading session, then we often make or buy puppets and other props to bring the story alive.
When reading from a book we always (quickly) –
- Point out the author’s name and picture from the front cover
- Hold our finger under the words so children learn print goes from left to right
Then we get on with the job of telling the story. We always try to use funny voices for the characters and, if we have a little longer, we do all of the above and –
- Encourage children to recognise simple words by pointing out letters they know
- Talk about the various pictures the children can see on the pages
- Use songs or music as part of the storytelling
- Change words to challenge children’s memories and understanding
- Use the children’s names instead of the characters – they love it when they are part of the stories
- Add puppets and small word toys to engage visual learners
We always read a book through from start to finish first – it allows the children to understand the flow of the story and helps to develop their understanding. If they maintained concentration, we might then focus on one of the stories they have chosen and develop it further by, for example –
- Asking questions about the characters
- Talking about what the characters are wearing or eating
- Ask how the children think the characters are feeling
- Ask why the children think a character responded in the way they did
- Ask the children what they would do in different situations etc…
We are careful to ask open ended questions (see this blog) and give the children plenty of time to answer but we don’t want a storytelling session to turn into 20 questions because that will put the children off, so any questions we ask are sensitive and relevant.
Puppets can add different dimensions to a story if they are relevant and recognisable. Our children enjoy making puppets for various stories – they can be drawn and coloured and glued onto craft sticks. If we want them to last a little longer we laminate them. We also use small world toys – for example, when reading ‘Spot goes to the farm’ we collect the various animals Spot sees and set them out … we leave them for the children to use later and observe how they interact with the resources.
If we are telling a story – rather than reading a book – the puppets can be introduced to hold the attention of visual learners in our group (see this information about children’s learning characteristics). We often include children’s favourite characters in our made up stories, add children’s names to make it relevant to them… or give each child the opportunity to add to the story to develop their imaginations.
We plan a storytelling session every day, sometimes with and sometimes without books. The children love it as much as us and often ask to make puppets – especially the older ones who have been here for a few years. They don’t tend to go home though – they are used and used through the day and torn but that’s fine, they have served their purpose, we can make more next time!
We have recently asked all our parents for the titles of their children’s favourite stories at home and we are going to include some of those in our story telling sessions.
We look forward to hearing your feedback… Sarah and Nige