Western Stories with Year 5
As a secondary English teacher with nineteen years experience, Mike is at home in all educational environments, from reception classes to sixth form. He has used storytelling as part of his general practice for many years, and is able to offer a variety of opportunities for pupils of all ages and abilities.
All teachers are well aware of the power of stories on children of all ages. A well told narrative that can unlock the imagination and engage children in a world outside their every day experience. The University of Nottingham recognises the importance of storytelling in teaching, and has invited Mike to work with its PGCE students for the past three years.
Mike offer something new to your teaching and learning. When working with a group of children, his aim is to:
• engage the imagination in a subtly different way; a listener plays a more active role in the story than a reader
• encourage a love of narrative, both heard and written
• improve listening skills
• encourage empathy
• provide a moment of stillness in the life of the listener – teachers have commented on the way that children who often find it difficult to concentrate have been mesmerised by a spoken tale
• stimulate interest in different cultures
• Build confidence, allowing all children to participate in the story telling process
Children can also learn to tell their own stories, utilising techniques to help them organise narratives, use music and rhythm, tell group stories and express ideas more clearly. This can be an incredibly empowering experience, as I have seen in my work with a wide variety of age groups.
Talk for writing
One of the key techniques recommended by the Primary National Strategy is ‘talk for writing’. Storytelling will allow your pupils to:
• experience the exciting, effective use of language
• orally rehearse stories that can be written about in the following days
• build valuable banks of language and narrative pattering which can be incorporated into later writing
Staff have commented on the increased enthusiasm and confidence of pupils in their approach to written work after storytelling workshops.
Primary schools are more used to working with storytellers, yet the benefits can be great for students at all key stages. Mike has also been invited to a number of international schools, working with students from all over the world.
Preparation for GCSE English Language
Mike was recently commissioned by The Redhill Academy (an 'outsdanding' school) to create a series of workshops to help students with the ‘story from an image’ component of the AQA English Language GCSE. Here is the feedback from the Head of English: “The session was brilliant and you captivated the students’ interest from the very first moment with your storytelling. Students loved considering the structure of their creative story and it was really impressive to hear them discussing motifs and cyclical structures when planning their narrative. This will be really helpful for Paper 1, Section B too!”
Mike was also approached by a number of Midlands schools to help out with the EDUQUAS GCSE creative prose writing section, a paper that demands more of a focus on believable and plausible stories. R Hendra, English lead practitioner at The Winstanley School, wrote: "Many thanks for today. The students found you to be engaging and informative and you are undoubtedly a most outstanding storyteller! Your focused sessions enabled our students to explore their creative side whilst considering exam board criteria for their written tasks without fear of ‘getting it wrong’ - we know that this will support them as we move ever closer to their GCSE English Language Exams. One student told me that she felt your enthusiastic delivery enabled her to really see how simple the process of effective story writing can be and coupled with the structural approaches has meant that she intends to go away and practice her writing this weekend. Of course we would recommend your services to any school as long as you can find time in your schedule to deliver sessions again next year!
Further feedback from schools
“The pupils were captivated by Mike’s incredible story telling, he inspired them to use their imagination and creativity. The results were evident in the short stories they then produced in our next lesson.” Amy Gascoigne The Redhill Academy
“The feedback from the pupils was very positive, for many it was the favourite part of the week. One teacher was so entranced by the stories she forgot she was in school! I thought you interacted with the children wonderfully, especially when questions and answers were a little unusual. When I watched the children whilst you were telling a story they were completely engaged.” Amanda Sullivan, Latymer Prep. school, Hammersmith
“We are an international school with students of a wide range of academic ability and also a large percentage of students who have only started learning English in the last year or so. His lively but clear style and thoughtfully created activities meant they were all able to participate comfortably. He had our students on their feet elaborating strange, spooky and funny stories by the end of the session. It was great to work with Mike: he knows an awful lot of stories and he knows how to get students on board whether listening, planning or performing things for themselves. He’s coming again this year.” Helen Cass, Director of English at the Haut Lac International Bilingual School, Switzerland
Workshops for parents and staff/keynote speaker
In 2014, Mike addressed the Nottingham literacy conferences for primary leaders and secondary heads of English, speaking of the importance of storytelling in the classroom and at home. He was also the keynote speaker at The Nottingham Catholic Teaching Alliance Teaching and Learning conference in 2017, talking about the importance of creativity in the classroom. Use his ideas to promote literacy at home by teaching parents how to learn and tell stories with their children - Mike can lead workshops for parents, and can also provide CPD for staff in the use of storytelling in the classroom.
"The PGCE students absolutely loved it. They wish that they had had the session at the start of the year and then another one later on. They found it really useful and really fun. They said their faces were aching from smiling and laughing after the session. I will be in touch to book another session for next year's group." Sally Betteridge, PGCE course leader, University of Nottingham
"Your session and expertise were recognised by the staff you worked with through the exceptionally positive feedback they gave." M Turton, Director of Teaching School. Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic MAT
“The family story telling workshop gave parents & carers an opportunity to learn how to share stories with their children. They realised their personal stories are an important way to share things about their family. Parents/carers who participated said they'd had a fantastic time and it was lovely to see them engage in speaking and listening activities to retell stories with their children. I believe the work Mike does is an amazing opportunity to develop pupils' speaking and listening skills, vocabulary, confidence and creativity in a thoroughly fun and exciting way.” Jane Humphreys, Head Teacher at Elmore Green School, Walsall
Work across academy trusts
"Mike delivered a project across 7 schools in an newly formed MAT to celebrate story-telling and bring the schools together. Culminating in a wonderful performance for parents from all the schools, and featuring 28 children from across the Trust, the project was a great success. Mike was organised, creative and proactive in planning the project. He engaged and enthused the teachers and children involved to such an extent that we are already planning to repeat the project next year; some Trust schools are planning to book Mike for additional work.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Mike unconditionally for similar work in schools. Feel free to contact me for more information." Peter Cresswell-Head Teacher (Executive) Keyworth/Crossdale Primary Schools
Whether you want to celebrate your children's love of stories, begin (or end) a topic with a 'Wow' day or focus on oracy and talk for writing, Mike can tailor a day for you, whatever your theme. In the last year, he has performed shows and delivered workshops on a massive range of subjects, including: the Aztecs, the weather, Native American culture, ghost stories, pirate tales, ‘minibeasts’ , polar regions, Ancient Egypt, The Vikings, The Maya, Ancient Greece, the rainforest, Australia, cowboys and the 'Wild West'...oh, and Robin Hood, of course - you can’t be a Nottingham based storyteller without nipping off to the greenwood every now and then. Whatever your topic, just ask.