Storytelling Curriculum Planning

choosing a story

term map

At Larkrise we have been using a storytelling curriculum for the past ten years.

This arose from work with Pie Corbett and Chris Smith of ‘Storytelling Schools’ though, being Larkrise, we chose to do our own version rather than sticking to the road map laid out by Chris and Pie.

I led a workshop on this at a LearningFirst conference in Chester earlier this year and promised to share some planning documentation. Apologies for the delay but here it is for you.

One of the underlying principles of the curriculum is that teachers are free to choose a story which will work for their class depending on the particular needs of that group of children and in relation to the curriculum content to be taught in that sequence. A story sequence is almost always one half term – five to seven weeks – though this can change. A teacher is free to plan a shorter or, indeed, a longer sequence if it makes sense for those children and that set of learning objectives.

The first planning sheet we ask the teachers to complete is the ‘Choosing a Story’ sheet. If teachers carefully fill in the grey boxes then move on to the white boxes they should find they have a useful set of criteria for selecting a story that will meet their needs.

Stories can come from anywhere and need not, by the way, be ‘traditional’ stories or even non-fiction. Right now Year Two are very happily and busily engaged in a story sequence based on Shackleton’s ‘Endurance’ expedition. Stories are introduced orally and the children learn to tell them as the first part of the sequence. This ensures they learn to use rich language and rich vocabulary. We make good use of Chris Smith’s ‘147 Stories for Children to Retell’ but also have a large library of story collections to hand and we talk to each other a lot to make sure we select a really great story – a bad choice at this point is just about fatal!

147 Stories for Chilren to Retell

When the ‘Choosing a Story’ sheet is complete the teachers move on to the ‘Story Sequence Planning Sheet’ (above as ‘term map’) where they lay out the skills they want to develop over the sequence and the activities they can use to focus on developing those skills.

Over the course of the last ten years this curriculum model has served us very well. Attainment and progress at the school have risen consistently year on year particularly in writing. We will be making some significant changes to the model for next year to ensure high quality texts are fully integrated into each sequence and we are considering adding a ‘knowledge organiser’ element to planning. We’ll be happy to share this developing element of our practice as we embed it next year.




Larkrise Reports

report example

The style of annual reports we write at Larkrise has changed entirely over the last three years inspired by the good practice we observed at Wroxham Primary School in Potters Bar.

Up to three years ago we used a computer based system based on drop down menus. Although it was possible to compose ones own comments within the system one was naturally inclined not to, seeing that someone presumably much cleverer than oneself has spent time writing every report it was reasonable to think of. To save time, the teacher could ‘group’ the children to apply comments – the result of this was that children were likely to receive very similar looking and sounding reports and if the parents didn’t feel uncomfortable about that the teachers certainly did!

Our current reports start from the other end, with comments on their learning and school experience from the children. The teachers simply respond to what the child says. While this can happen purely on the report itself we find that very often these conversations spill out into the classroom and serve a useful role in developing the teachers understanding of the child and the child’s own metacognition.

Teachers all prefer this format. They say it doesn’t take them any longer to write these reports than the old ones. They prefer them because it feels more like a human connection with the child. Parents report a high degree of satisfaction.

The example provided here is of a child in Year Five. You will see that the teacher did not censor his voice but instead replied skilfully to highlight the work she has done with him. The parents were very pleased with the report feeling it captured their son very accurately and that it gave them insights into his learning and his relationship with schooling.

This example is from last academic year, we added a couple of variations this year but suspect we will strip it back.