Breaking Down Barriers with Helicopter Stories

“Once we start telling stories, boundaries break down and we start seeing each other in technicolour.”

I think one of the issues in education is a lot of external involvement, with targets being driven from outside of schools without taking the children into account; Classrooms are actually some of the most complex worlds, and we adults so underestimate them.

I met Trisha Lee at a conference many years ago, when I was a headteacher. She spoke about the role of theatre in education and Helicopter Stories, and I felt such a connection to what she was saying. Helicopter Stories was exactly what my children needed: in particular, it was a way for them to develop communication skills, an understanding of story, and a love of language.

 With that in mind, I worked with my team of creative, passionate and skilled practitioners to introduce the approach. Arts became the core of our provision, providing opportunities for creativity and effective communication. Helicopter Stories was a way to empower children and help them to express themselves. We were putting our children’s needs at the forefront, while acknowledging how diverse they were.

The development of the children across the year was always impressive, from the moment they entered the classroom for the first time and had their first Helicopter Stories session. Especially those who started the year like a bag of frogs, finding it very difficult to sit on the carpet. These children have so much energy and little understanding of expectations or what they’re capable of. When we saw their progress, even after just a few weeks of Helicopter Stories, it was amazing; the children sat comfortably around the stage, listening to each other’s stories and acting them out.

Giving children the language to express how they’re feeling – not just emotionally but practically – in response to learning that day, how they’re finding sitting next to a particular child who might be bothering them that day, how the weather has affected them that day, how being asked a question has made them feel a little bit tense, is so important. Being able to step back and see children communicate and express themselves is absolutely vital to good learning and that’s what Helicopter Stories enables children to do. It makes for a much warmer environment, filled with the kind of storytelling that connects us, which is especially important when we inevitably come from different places, different languages, different cultures. Once we start telling our stories, boundaries break down and we start seeing each other in technicolour.

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