25 Feb 2020

Ghost monsters, sneaky hippos and muddy spies

Post written by: Pip Jones (Skylarker)

I’m very excited to be bringing Stories at Large and the StoryGenerator to nurseries and schools in Paignton….

Last term I ran a 6 week Stories at Large residency at Roselands Nursery and Playschool. This work is inspired by Vivienne Paley, an award-winning teacher and childhood education researcher who pioneered a pedagogic approach in which an adult scribes, and then children act out, each other’s stories.

It was a learning curve for me as I have only worked with very small groups, over a long period of time, using this approach. At Roselands there were two groups of 15 children, back to back.


Writing up the staff feedback helps me to value those nuggets of gold:

“The children who wanted to sit and watch the storysquare were still feeling involved, and no pressure on them to join in made them feel happier” Yes! Watching can be so active and creative.


Staff wrote feedback about the children enjoying “being able to come up with and use their own ideas for moving and telling stories”, “expressing themselves”, “being listened to” and “drawing ideas”. They wrote about how, over the course of the sessions, they enjoyed seeing “quieter children becoming excited and voicing their opinions, showing their moves, joining in” and how it “boosted confidence”.  I asked about the relation of the work to the EYFS and a member of staff wrote “helping children with communication and language, self-awareness, physical play, imagination, story structure and retelling stories. Sessions are useful for all statements within EYFS”.

What was totally wonderful was that by the end of the 6 weeks I just watched! And the staff at Roselands led the whole session. This was just brilliant for me to see – that the settings can take it on and use it independently.

Now I’m two weeks in to taking the StoryGenerator into schools and working with classes in year 1 and 2.

I feel so lucky. I am still developing my skills as a solo storyteller and these performances help me to discover more of the light and shade in the stories I tell. Yesterday, after the story of the Very Mean King from Kenya, the children made up their own stories too, and on an impulse we created a storysquare then and there. 30 children – yikes! But they were amazing – it is such a natural, pleasurable thing for them to do, be active as they explore ideas. One boy, who I think had been told off for being too energetic/ noisy/ misbehaving, was the most brilliant lightening in someone’s story. He deserved an Oscar. And in another class, a twist at the end of the tale (with a scary monster screaming with fear) had the whole class erupt in a huge burst of belly laughter.

I am so looking forward to the next 4 weeks….