Way back in June, we were really grateful to get some wonderful feedback from Emma Flockton about her experience with Tales Toolkit. We talk about the impact our training has for children in early years but this is only possible because of the great practitioners like Emma who are out there creating stories with the children, putting it into practise and extending our work with lots of creative ideas of their own.
Emma has been a Teacher for the last 20 years. In that time she has taught right across the Primary age range and for the last 12 years has taught exclusively in EYFS. Emma was designated as an SLE by Scarborough Teaching Alliance in 2014. Currently she is Headteacher of Otley Street Community Nursery School in Skipton and we’re super excited she’s written about her experience. Over to you Emma…
Throughout my career I have always been a huge advocate of storying and the immense impact it can have on a child’s language development. Having worked extensively with vulnerable children and children with complex needs over the last 20 years, I fully recognise the power that being able to tell a story has for these children. Learning story language and sentence structure lays a strong foundation for writing stories later on. So often we ask ourselves is “How can we enable children to become confident story tellers and writers?”
Fast forward to September 2020 when I took up my role as Headteacher of Otley Street Community Nursery School in Skipton. At this point we were already beginning to see the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic was having on the children’s language acquisition. Our initial assessments showed that our children were already falling behind ‘age related expectations’. In a response to this, we discussed what we could do to best support these children going forward. At this point I was able to relay to staff what I’d seen happening at Childhaven and how children’s language development was being supported through storying and Tales Toolkit. We decided that a vehicle like Tales Toolkit had the potential to structure and harnesses the children’s own narratives.
Running parallel to this, we as adults, would model and provocate storying with the children; carefully scribing and putting their stories into written format. On a weekly basis, I set up a ‘bottle story’ setting. (See pictures) During group time the children and I would use the four prompts of character, setting, problem and solution to work out a narrative which matched what was happening in the bottle. The children were really ‘hooked’ by the concept and responded with thought and imagination.
Inevitably, some children’s storying developed quicker than others but what we have found is that those whose storying skills developed quicker have become storying role models for the other children. The impact of children seeing adults scribe has been huge. Children have been heard saying “Wow! Look at all that writing!” Acquiring their secretarial skills is definitely something that they aspire to now. We now have dedicated storying areas both inside and outside so the children can freely access storying to help develop their narratives. Adults are always on hand to scribe and record stories for the children.
One child who came to us as a January starter (Autumn birthday), had very little language and a poorly developed vocabulary. At this point the child’s parents had already sought support from the ‘speech and language’ service. Four terms later and this child is now able to draw a picture about their story and using the picture prompts, can tell you the narrative behind the picture. Their use of language has improved way beyond our expectations. Tales Toolkit is now firmly embedded within our curriculum and a great many of our children are able to use it as a platform on which to develop their own narratives. We are overwhelmed and delighted with the progress that the children have made.
Written by Emma Flockton
Headteacher of Otley Street Community Nursery School