Delivered by CEYTSA with initial funding from Cambridgeshire School Improvement Board

Background to the project

In January 2018 Cambridge Early Years Teaching School successfully won a project bid aimed at improving Literacy outcomes for Cambridgeshire children in Nursery, Reception and Year One classes. The training which was initially for one year, but is now ongoing, is entirely FREE – so please do get in touch if you would like to access this training. It offers practitioners really practical ideas, based on tried, tested and effective approaches to teaching Literacy that we use in our Nursery classes. It focuses on the three main areas of Core Books, Story trails, and Helicopter Stories.

Core Books

These are much loved stories which can be chosen to match the age of those you teach. In Nursery, and Reception, we particularly focus on picture books such as Owl Babies, Whatever Next and The Bear Hunt, as well as traditional tales such as Goldilocks. Children really get to know these texts well over a period of weeks, reading them and acting them out.  Through these activities children continue to develop a love of stories, and storytelling, as well as understanding the structural aspects of becoming a writer developing structure, plot and characterisation. The training we deliver on Core Books can be adapted to any number of favourite texts.  The work done with children also engages parents in storytelling as there are visual summary story sheets and story sacks for the children to borrow and enjoy with their parents at home. We also link some of the stories to our Story trails, which families enjoy together in our garden on a termly basis.

Story Trails

Story trails are events for children and parents to enjoy together, for half an hour at the beginning of a session, on a termly basis. The themes we have developed are appropriate for the time of year. In the Autumn Term our story trail is based on the traditional Christmas story and adults take on the roles of key characters from this. The story is told in different areas of the garden and involves parents and children in singing songs, and decorating pine cones to hang on the Christmas tree, as well as some dancing to traditional Christmas songs.

In the Spring Term as new life starts to emerge we do a non-fiction themed story trail based on eggs and life cycles. Again the garden is set up in different areas to provoke, and promote, questions from children and parents. Some non-fiction texts are also used to learn more about the natural world and we often have frogs and frogspawn in our pond for a first-hand experience of lifecycles.

In the Summer Term we enjoy acting out ‘We’re all Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen. We go around the garden through the squelchy mud, or the swishy swashy grass, before returning to class to enjoy a honey sandwich!

Helicopter Stories

Helicopter stories are enjoyed weekly by children throughout the year and are based on the work of Vivian Gussin Paley. Children are invited on an individual basis to come and tell a story by their teacher who acts as the scribe. Later on in the session these stories are acted out at Circle time, with friends in the class taking on starring roles. As the year progresses children tell more and more elaborate stories as plots and characters develop. A record of every child’s story is kept and given to them at the end of the year so that they can celebrate themselves as storytellers.

Although our initial project sponsored by Cambridge School Improvement Board has come to an end we still offer this free training in Core Books, Story trails and Helicopter Stories –  so why not get in touch and come and see for yourself this very practical Literacy training in action.