Storytelling in the garden

Resources to support storytelling outside

I recently supported a school, in developing their outdoor area, and brought along with me some resources to support imaginative play.  These were, a log hide for a rabbit, (Pets at Home), a hedgehog, hanging basket and liner (Poundland) and a fairy door (The Works £2- see below).  These very cheap resources produced great excitement amongst a group of girls, all of whom had English as an additional language.  They spent the morning playing with the resources and chatting enthusiastically to one another, in English, much to the surprise of the teachers who exclaimed that they had never heard them talk so much.

IMG_7128The girls used the resources to create a home for the hedgehog and wrote messages to the fairies, posting them through the fairy door, which I had placed, under the ivy, in the garden.

We then discussed different ways of following their interests and extending the activity.  I suggested the teachers wrote a letter to the children, from the fairies, thanking them for their messages and asking them for their help.

Any number of challenges could be set here, but beginning with building a fairy village might be a good start as making houses, swings, slides, ladders or tree houses has wide-ranging appeal and will allow for the use of loose materials,  fine motor development and problem-solving opportunities.  The addition of some fairy creatures along with other characters, such as dragons, witches and wizards will also add to the play.

Mini-mes are a great addition to small world play and cost little to make. Take photos of the children in dressing up clothes, cut them out, laminate, then attach them to cotton reels.  The children will come up with lots of ideas for characters and love using their own and their friend’s images in their play.

Small world play is a great way of getting children to become authors particularly if they are given the time needed to create a narrative.  Imaginary play is also a way in which children act out their own life experiences which can be very informative when observed.   Encourage children to create story maps or draw a scene from their story which can then be scribed for them, in order to capture the narrative.  Children can then either write captions or speech bubbles to go with their illustrations.

Girls are generally quite happy to do this, however, this doesn’t often appeal to boys. I have found, that usually, a different approach is needed.   Read stories with boy appeal, such as Traction Man, then provide action men figures which they can manipulate to create their own adventures in the garden.  Photos will illustrate the main events in the story and children can annotate these prior to them being laminated and made into books.

An alternative and even more engaging way of doing this is to use online apps such as Book Creator which allows you to create a class library of up to 40 books.  The beauty of this app is its simplicity. The text and pencil tools make drawing and writing, or annotating photos, really easy.   There is a comic book option too which supports boys writing as they can do this in small chunks using speech bubbles or thought bubbles. The addition of onomatopoeia stickers provides added appeal.  Photos can be uploaded from the extensive library or taken by, or with, children and uploaded to use instead.  The ebooks can be saved online or downloaded then printed and laminated and stored in the book area for all to read.

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Children love to read stories they have created themselves particularly if care has been taken with their presentation. It provides children with a great sense of self-esteem to see books they have created being read by others and are more likely to be engaged in the process and return to create more.

It was clear that the resources I brought along with me ignited a spark of interest amongst the group of girls and, in using them, they demonstrated their growing ability to communicate in a new language, remain engaged and involved for an extended period of time and use resources in new and imaginative ways. This demonstrates the need for practitioners to review the learning environment and children at play, to ensure that resources on offer are providing children with interest and challenge.  These don’t need to be expensive but need to be interesting and exciting if children are to use them imaginatively.


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