A celebration of the many positions children adopt when they engage with writing

The Ofsted Bold Beginnings report stated a need for children in Reception to be taught proper pencil grip and how to sit correctly at a table.

But why does writing always have to happen at a table? For the children I work, with the amount of self-elected writing they engage with is phenomenal. But hardly any of it happens in this conventional way.

As a writer, I often find myself adopting a range of positions when I write. I quite like sitting cross legged on the floor when I’m outlining a story by hand. Sometimes I lie on my belly and sketch out a character, and more recently I purchased a laptop stand that sits on my desk so that I can write standing up.

Sitting  all day long is not good for any of us, regardless of our age. Our bodies are not designed for it. When we move less we burn less calories. Its harder for our bodies to digest food if we sit down on a full stomach. Sitting for long periods of times strains our neck and our shoulders and can give us back pain. We’re just not built that way. So why is there a growing insistence in the early years that children should get used to sitting at a desk, when any of us who work at a desk all day long know far too well how bad that is for us.

In this short blog I want to celebrate the writing positions of Reception aged children who have taken it upon themselves to start writing, and are doing it for the sheer fun of it.

Children write in many positions…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lets celebrate it…

All these children started writing their own stories, self-elected as a result of regular engagement with Helicopter Stories and the knowledge that each of these stories would be acted out and reach an audience.

And for those of you who are interested in impact…

From September 2017 to July 2018, I have been delivering Helicopter Stories on a regular basis with a class of Reception children in one of the highest Super Output areas in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

When the group came in at the start of the academic year, only 27% of them were reaching the expected level in writing for children of that age. By the end of Reception this had increased to 76%. With the national average at 75% in 2017 I think that is pretty impressive.

Speaking went from 41% to 82%

Self confidence 58% to 88%

Imaginative Skills 59% to 100%

For more information on Helicopter Stories visit http://www.makebelievearts.co.uk or contact Trisha Lee at info@makebelievearts.co.uk

index

 

Keeping a Record of Children’s Stories

There is no hard and fast rule about how to keep a record of the children’s stories you collect during a Helicopter Stories session, although it is important that the size of the paper is A5 or a similarly small size. This is because if you scribe stories on A4 paper they will end up being too long and it will be difficult to bring them to life through the acting out.

In this blog post I have decided to share some of the things that work for me re: keeping a record of a child’s stories, and to explain how my thinking has developed over time, often as a result of things I have seen in other setting, or through conversations between Isla Hill and myself that have made me reflect in different ways.

Early Days:

This is the very first Helicopter Stories class book that I used when I first started working with the approach in 1999.helicopter stories 1st book

In those early days, I’d purchase a beautiful square shaped hardback book for every class I worked with. I would write each story inside, placing the child’s name and the date at the top of the page.

If I wanted to track the development of the stories for a particular child I had to flick through the pages till I found each of their entries and then I’d type them up so that that I could look at them in one go.

I liked the ritual of the class book, but it does make it harder to notice the more subtle changes that take place in every child’s story, especially when they have been engaged in the approach over a long period of time.

Scribing in Duplicate:

During the early years of MakeBelieve Arts, Isla and I had the opportunity to visit the Rice University Centre for Education in Houston, Texas. The centre runs a training programme around the work of Vivian Gussin Paley, (the now retired kindergarten teacher and renowned author of 13 books, who developed the Storytelling and Story Acting approach.)

910eDIdrjxL__SL1500_The teachers at Rice University scribe children’s stories in Triplicate  books. By placing a piece of carbon paper between every sheet, they create three copies of each story. One copy goes in the child’s file, one is sent home, and one stays in the Triplicate book as a record of the stories of everyone in the class.

Returning from Rice University, Isla and I began using Duplicate books, so that we could leave one copy with the school and keep the book for our own records. This worked for a while, but it never felt satisfying. The paper was too thin, and although this was vital to enable the carbon to work, it didn’t command the same value for the children’s stories as the thicker paper did.

By tearing a copy of each story out of the Duplicate book and placing it in an individual folder, we solved the problem of viewing all the stories from one child in a single place, but the carbons copies left in the book were often hard to read, and as each page was a bit smaller than A5 it was impossible to cram in the longer stories that were emerging as children grew more confident.

A5 Paper and Individual Books:

Aaleera's title pageSeveral years ago, I grew tired of Duplicate books, and ended up guillotining pieces of A4 paper in half on a regular basis and using these to scribe children’s stories. (That was before I discovered you can buy A5 paper pre-cut – oh the delights.)

Then one day a teacher from Essex, who I had been working with on a regular basis, had a brilliant idea. She created a cover for each of the children in her class, and using a treasury tag, she joined together all of their stories, adding any new ones to the back of their individual book at the end of each session.

The Helicopter Stories Book Cover was born. If you want to download a free template for this, here is a link to an A4 PDF with two copies of this cover, side by side. so that you can print them immediately on thick paper, or card. Alternatively, you may prefer to design your own version.    HS+book+cover+GREEN+A5+x+2+PDF

As an extra bonus, we also have A6 sized covers that are perfect for scribing stories from 2 year olds, especially good while their stories consist of one or two words. Helicopter+Stories+main+cover+for+twos

The Benefits of Individual Books:

There are so many values to the Individual Books.

Having every story told by an individual child in one place, creates a fantastic record, showing you how their language is developing, their use of imagery and metaphor, the themes that fascinate them, and those they have left behind.

But there are also other benefits. Some of the Reception and Yr1 classes I work with leave the books out, either hanging them on the wall, or laying them out on a shelf. Children often sit reading  their own books, or using their emergent reading skills to retell a version of one of their stories to a friend. Books are shown to parents when they come to pick the children up, and they can become a storehouse for other bits of writing and drawings that have come about as part of the Helicopter Stories session.

bookshelf 2

Writing on an A5 Whiteboard:

And finally, here is another way of recording stories that I discovered recently. I was speaking to a woman who works in a Forest School. She told me that they scribe their children’s stories on small whiteboards, as its hard to use paper when they are working outside all the time and it goes soggy. To keep a record of the children’s stories they take a photo of the whiteboard. The photo goes into a file for each child, creating an online record.

I would love to hear if there are other ways that I haven’t come across, and their pros and cons.

This video is of a Reception aged girl from one of the schools I work with regularly. Having written her own story using emerging writing, she decided to read it aloud.

If you would like to know more about Helicopter Stories visit http://www.makebelievearts.co.uk or email info@makebelievearts.co.uk  01249 714607

index