How can Oral Storytelling improve pupils’ Literacy Skills?

Storytelling is a powerful tool to get students writing because it provides "opportunities to identify important details and dialogue, understand and recall stories and story elements, and practise oral language skills such as vocal expression and exaggeration"

Storytelling & Writing "Using a different type of pencil" 

Parr M & Campbell T (2007)

During Key Stages 1 and 2 pupils learn about significant people, places and events from the recent and more distant past. They listen and respond to stories and use this and other sources of information to ask and answer questions.

History provides many opportunities for pupils to explore the questions "What if?" and "What happened next?". After a school visit or researching past events pupils are frequently challenged to re-tell the event from a particular point of view or asked to describe what happened and why. Past History and ICT projects supported by the South-East Grid for Learning  that have used these tools to develop pupils writing have included:

 The Dover Boat Writing Project

Dover Castle Writing Project - The siege of 1216

DigIT 2009: The Romans in Kent (Stories about People and Places)

Drama and hot seating are frequently used in the classroom to re-examine events and to understand the viewpoints of different characters. Working in this manner encourages pupils to ask questions and suggest reasons why events might have taken place. Frequently the information from these activities is used as the basis to support a writing activity. To support this, storytelling is an effective tool as it helps many pupils accurately sequence events.

The steps to illustrate how storytelling can support writing are outlined below:

Step 1: What is the story about? Every story must have a beginning, middle and ending

Where does the story take place? Who are the main characters? What is the event/dilemma? What happens? How is the story resolved?

Step 2: Develop your story - Telling a Story is about going on a journey

To reach the end you must keep to the path and follow the signposts. When planning a story encourage your pupils to map on their planning sheet the key events. To help retell a story encourage your pupils to create a visual image for each event. This is a strategy used by many professional storytellers.

Step 3: Consider the audience - Adding descriptive words and phrases

Introduce your story with a powerful opening sentence and paragraph to catch the attention of the listener. It is also important to have a selection of adjectives and phrases prepared that you can insert at different points to maintain the listener's interest. Remember, storytelling is about creating a mood/atmosphere so that the listener can visualise for themselves what is happening!

Step 4: Reviewing and refining your work

A good story can be short or last anything up to 5 minutes. To assess how well you tell a story, record yourself using a voice recorder or laptop. Then replay the recording. Do you need to make any changes to the content or style of delivery?

Working with a professional storyteller

Not all adults are born storytellers or feel comfortable retelling stories to others. To overcome this hurdle several schools in Kent recently invited the professional storyteller "Raggedy Jack" to visit and help pupils develop and retell stories about a Victorian Christmas. Besides sharing stories and explaining the traditional art of storytelling, the day also included a practical workshop for the pupils on creating a story and using simple props. If you believe storytelling can develop pupils' speaking & listening and writing skills then do consider booking a professional storyteller to visit your school.

Who is Raggedy Jack?

A storytelling workshop with Raggedy Jack - At the end of the day all the pupils retold their stories to the class. The stories were then recorded and a presentation CD given to every child in the class.    

A Victorian Christmas (PDF) - Click here for more details

How can we use ICT in the classroom to support storytelling?

"Storytelling and talking about their writing allows students to rehearse and revise stories, and creates an atmosphere for free writing, circumventing the "I hate writing" attitude."

To record pupils' work requires no specialist ICT equipment.  All you need to get started are a laptop, webcam, microphone, voice recorder and pair of portable speakers.

Storytelling can take many forms. It is not just about pupils standing in front of their peers and telling a whole story. Variations on the theme include pupils each being responsible for a chapter and challenging pupils to create an audio story, often with sound effects. Whatever the task there are a wide selection of ICT applications that your pupils can use to enhance and share their work with listeners. To illustrate this, listed below are three popular "free" resources. For more information about each application visit the website or download the accompanying PDF.

1. Flashmeeting - Performing Live

Flashmeeting is a free web conferencing application. However, if you unplug your webcam you can use the audio feed to enable your pupils to create their own "live" radio broadcast or radio play. Impressed?  The online application also allows the user to record sessions for future playback. These sessions can also be edited to remove unintentional mistakes so that you can create a shortened version of the original broadcast!

Imagine the possibilities. Your pupils can use the application to share their stories live with schools in and outside the United Kingdom and later post on your school website a second version for parents and peers to replay.

2. Audacity - The most popular "free" to download sound recording and editing software

Pupils of all ages can use the software to record and playback sound files. Editing is undertaken on screen by highlighting the segments to be deleted. Recordings are automatically saved as AUP (Audacity Project) files but can be easily exported and converted to either a WAV or mp3 format.

To help young learners, stories can be saved in segments/chapters.  Each time the user clicks on the pause and play buttons a new audio track appears on the screen. If a mistake is made, the user can delete the track and re-record that part of the story. This feature is also frequently used to add sound effects to a pre-recorded story.

3. Picture Teller - Combining text and audio 

Picture Teller is a popular online application that enables the user to combine images and sound to describe a single or series of events.  

Selected images are dragged and displayed in the storyboard. Sound can be added at this point to either an individual image or the whole presentation. When the presentation is replayed the floating cursor can be used to highlight parts of the picture. An impressive tool - this encourages pupils to consider the composition of their photograph before clicking the button and saving their image. Completed presentations can be exported to another application (i.e., Microsoft Word or PowerPoint) by using a conventional hyperlink or be embedded using HMTL in a previously created web page.

Opportunities to promote Storytelling in 2012

"Life in Victorian Times" and "The Titanic Experience" are two projects that use storytelling as a springboard to improving pupils' writing and literacy skills. Flyers with details about the projects and the planned CPD days for staff will be sent to schools in many LAs across the region early in the New Year. 

The Titanic Experience - "The last place on the life boat"

Recount the last hours of the Titanic. Retell the tragic event through the eyes of the passengers and crew who were there!

Life in Victorian Times - The Census Project

Retell events from the period 1841 - 1911 through the eyes of people who lived during the period. To support this project all schools taking part will be given 3 months' "free" access by FindMyPast to the national Census database. Use the Census to find out who lived in your community 150 years ago!

Interested in the above projects or developing the use of storytelling in your classroom?

For more information contact:

Phil Bracegirdle - Independent ICT Teaching & Learning Consultant, ICT Naace Mark Assessor and SEGfL Associate 


Phil Bracegirdle                                                                                                                       Date: December 2011