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Storyshaping is a fun and inclusive way to create and rehearse stories together. We’ve teamed up with Yellow Door to help you unlock the children’s storytelling creativity

Storyshaping resource from Yellow Door

Imagine giving children the opportunity to explore and invent new places, times, characters, questions and ideas in a story, and then using that story as inspiration to access all six Areas of Learning, as set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage framework (EYFS). This is storyshaping – a gentle, interactive way to make and share stories together. Storyshaping places children at the centre of the storytelling process, where they are not just being creative, but they are the creators of a new story.

Storyshaping uses five Storyshapes that represent the building blocks for a story – place, time, character, question and idea. The tactile shapes are passed around a small group of children and used as prompts to build a story through talk. If you do not have a set of Storyshapes, you can still use these five concepts as prompts for creating a story with a group of children.

Storyshaping can be inspired by anything, anyone or anywhere. Enjoy exploring a variety of books, stories, rhymes and imaginative play opportunities to find inspiration. Parents using English as an additional language (EAL) and who come in to share stories from their culture, plus grandparents’ memories of childhood, would also make wonderful starting-points.

Speaking and listening

In the days following a storyshaping session, consider how themes from your story can be translated into play and learning to develop the children’s speaking and listening skills. For example:

  • Sit in a circle with a small group of children. Whisper the name of one of the characters to one child to pass on to the next child. The last child then speaks it out loud. Take this further by giving clues about a character and encourage the children to guess which character you are thinking of.
  • Ask questions about the story, its characters and events.
  • Encourage the children to retell their story, to listen to other retellings and to discuss words that they are unfamiliar with.
  • Retell the story through mime and let the children fill in the words.
  • Invite the children to act out their story. Provide a selection of costumes to encourage this and ask the children to look for appropriate props in the setting or to make their own simple hand puppets.
  • Let the children choose how to develop the story. Encourage creativity in all its forms, using body sounds, instruments, fine motor skills and crafts to extend the story. Explore the story through small-world play opportunities using suitable toy characters and settings.

Capturing the story

Download the story arc from the Scholastic website This is available in SMART Notebook, Promethean Activprimary and PowerPoint.

Show the children the story arc and talk about the images of the Storyshapes representing place, time, character, question and idea. Encourage the children to retell parts of their story, prompted by the shapes. Record the children telling their favourite parts of the story using a voice recorder. Add the recordings to the story arc as links. If you are not sure how to do this, just click on the ‘Show me how’ link on the teacher’s notes page in the download.

Ask the children what else they would like to do with the story in order to share it with the rest of the group and with their parents, for example, they might like to make a book, paint a picture or even make marks in coloured icing on biscuits! Use the story arc to help plan a sequence of drawings to tell the story.

Case study

Wake up, Crocodile!

One children’s centre childminding group shaped a story called ‘Wake up, Crocodile!’. This was about a sleepy crocodile and the imaginative ways that other animals tried to wake him, including an elephant showering him with water, a lion with a great roar and a butterfly who flapped her wings.

After shaping the story, the group chose to look at pictures of the animals in their natural habitats and then draw their own pictures.

They also visited the library to find books about the different animals.

The action in the story also lent itself to role play, with the children using their voices in different ways to wake the ‘crocodile’.

The ideas, activities and downloads in this article are taken from Yellow Door’s Storyshaping book and CD-ROM by Julia Damassa and Meg Jones, and are reproduced by kind permission of Yellow Door. The Storyshapes and storyshaping concept were devised and created by Julia Damassa.

The Storyshapes are tactile prompts for storyshaping, designed to remind children of key story elements and spark their creativity. Both the Storyshapes and Storyshaping book and CD-ROM are available from Yellow Door. For further information visit Yellow Door or call 0845 603 5309.

Story arc

Place

Ask the children where their story takes place. Encourage them to respond, and accept all their ideas equally. Repeat their collective ideas back to them, adding descriptive story language where appropriate. Ask about the colours, sounds and smells of the place.

Time

Ask the children when the story happens. Talk about the time of day, the weather, what day of the week or month it is, or even if it is a special day.

Character

Ask the children who their story is about. Talk about the character’s name, age, appearance, personality and occupation.

Question

Ask what the character’s question is—maybe something they need to find out or a solution to a problem they are facing. Encourage the children to think about the character’s thoughts and feelings and to decide on their question together.

10% discount

If you would like the Storyshapes and/or the Storyshaping book and CD-ROM, Nursery Education PLUS readers can claim a special 10% discount by quoting ‘Nursery Education Storyshaping discount’ when ordering.

Idea

Ask how the character finds the answer to their question. Then, encourage the children to take their character on a journey to find an answer to the question. When the question has been answered, ask how the story ends.

Julia Damassa also offers training in storyshaping, which builds on the basic storyshaping concept, as outlined in this article. The training delivers practical techniques in making and telling stories, exploring the use of tools, such as voice, eye contact and gesture, as well as the Storyshapes themselves. For more details visit Story Shapes

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