Understanding Children Using Story and Poetry

“You can gain so much understanding from just asking a child if they would like to tell you a story…”

The children have thrived

At Thrussington C of E Primary School, our Early Years children have been taking part in weekly Helicopter Stories sessions for over four years. I first saw Trisha Lee at a conference in Leicester many years ago. I was mesmerised by the way she led a group of adults to act out a story. That evening I purchased Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories by Trisha Lee, learnt even more about the approach and felt equipped to introduce it within our setting.

Since then, Helicopter Stories has helped children gain confidence in a familiar environment, develop language skills and work with their peers. Some children can be very shy and reserved within the classroom but are still willing to tell their own story. The approach offers 1:1 time with a child and the opportunity for the practitioner to listen and learn about individual children’s interests and hobbies.

A recent story I scribed for a 5-year-old was all about Numberblock Number 5.

“Numberblock 7 came to see Numberblock 5 and then Numberblock 6 said “Hello” to Numberblock 5. Then Numberblock 1 came and said, “Can you pick an apple for me because I am too short?” But Numberblock 5 was too medium to pick it. Numberblock 10 came along and said, “I will get this apple for you” and then they ate some apple in the house.”

Look at the fantastic mathematical language this child uses in relating the Numberblock number and size to reaching for the apple from the tree. There is so much learning to be observed just from listening to a short story told by a child. I am constantly amazed by the children’s creativity and imagination.

Many of my cohort this year also love Super Mario and love telling and acting out stories relating to Super Mario and the video game.

“Once upon a time, Mario saw a black ‘M’ on the ground, and he fell down it and he just got stuck in the mud. He tried to get out, he jumped up, but Luigi was then with him. Then Luigi reminded him about the video game Bowser Fury and he must be in it.”

As you can see, every story is individual and unique. For me, Helicopter Stories covers all aspects of the Early Years Curriculum and, over the past four years, has become a regular part of my practice.

We discovered The Poetry Basket in 2019 and now Early Years take part in daily sessions. The children love learning a new poem each week and especially enjoy our build up to ‘Performance Friday!’ This is where I record the class performing the poem with actions and we share the video with parents at home through our private class Twitter page. Even during lockdown, the children still managed to learn a new poem each week and perform individually at home for ‘Performance Friday’, videoed by their parents.

The children take great pride and joy in their performances. They always insist on watching them and re-doing the poem if there are any mistakes made. It is a joy to see them so proud of their achievements and want to improve at such an early age. We’ve also had fantastic feedback from parents.

The children are highly motivated and eager to learn and I have noticed a huge difference in recent years with the children’s language skills, confidence to perform and imagination. You can gain so much understanding from just asking a child if they would like to tell you a story or perform a poem.

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