Shernice Donovan - Year 1 Teacher, Rusthall St Paul's Primary, Kent
Back in June 2018, when I found out I would be teaching Year 1 the following year, I was asked to dedicate every Friday morning to Helicopter Stories. This was a concept I knew very little about, only what I had heard from the Reception teacher about the work. MakeBelieve Arts Education Director, Isla Hill had been doing with our Reception aged children.
At first, I had so many reservations. Why should the children have a whole morning of unstructured time to write stories for the whole year? How much would this impact on the curriculum? How much formal teaching time would my class miss?
The prospect of a Year 1 class still having free flow time throughout the year was a scary one for me. There is so much to pack into the curriculum and so little time.
However, I am glad that we have our Friday morning Helicopter Story sessions. The impact on my class has been huge.
On a Friday morning I have tried as far as possible to create a story session, which still links to our topic. In my school, our topics lasts a term, so I have been able to use resources multiple times. The children are free to choose any activity in the classroom, just as they were able to in Reception. We have Lego and construction areas, trains, a creative area, role play, maths area and writing area.
I try to add topic related challenges or items to each area and hope that these will influence the children’s play. For example, during our Frozen Planet topic, the children have had polar animal masks and puppets to use, and polar word mats for their writing.
One week we had a tough spot full of ice. The children naturally love how familiar this free flow time is to them, especially early on in the year, and children love to play.
The amount of children who become immersed in storytelling during this time has shocked all of us at the school. There are often over ten children at the writing area, writing incredible stories.
The impact of Helicopter Stories has meant that the children BELIEVE they are WRITERS. They have taken to the idea of storytelling and embraced it. They tell stories whilst they play, and they all love sitting with a gel pen and notebook and writing their own story.
This has obviously had a huge impact on the curriculum. The writing the children produce during their English lessons is of a very high standard, and even those who may struggle with the physical demands of writing, have become articulate in story language so they can dictate a wonderful story.
In short, for us at Rusthall St Paul’s, Helicopter Stories has created a class of thirty authors.