Taking off with Helicopter Stories!

Our very first blog on our brand new website, what an exciting time!

Today’s blog is an introduction to the kind of thing you can expect to see here; a bit of a ‘behind the scenes look at what goes on, and most importantly why we do things the way we do.

As you’ve found our website, you probably know that we are a Social Enterprise in Scotland. Our aim is to reconnect children and families with nature and the outdoors via our Outdoor Nurseries, Schools Programmes, Holiday Club, Apprenticeships, and Training for practitioners. Meeting developmental and learning outcomes whilst nurturing creativity and increased wellbeing.

I love a mission statement, but if you’re like me you’ll want to know how we’re doing that; In practice, everyday.

A fairly recent and very welcome addition to our setting is Helicopter Stories.

Stramash Outdoor Nursery and St. Sylvesters Primary School created a partnership in November 2017 to explore an early literacy project, in the outdoors, using the ‘Helicopter Stories’ approach. We decided to use this approach as it was recognised that a number of children in St. Sylvesters P1 class had English and an additional language and that the technique could be used indoors and out as well as a tool to bridge the transition from pre-school to P1.

Helicopter Stories is tried, tested and proven to have significant impact on children’s literacy and communications skills, their confidence and social and emotional development. In simple terms it is an inclusive approach to storytelling, story scribing and story acting. (Lee, T. Helicopter Stories, 2016) (https://stramash.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/318d6-helicoptertechniqueevaluation.pdf)

Every child has their own book in which a practitioner or teacher scribes a story for them, exactly as told to them by the child. As part of the routine of the nursery a practitioner is available to scribe stories during the session, they are then acted out by the whole group during reflection at the conclusion of the session. We have been able to track developing vocabulary as well as stories that are created in response to place (in this case the woodland environment) and play. Children’s confidence is growing and the quietest of pupils are able to have their voice heard and story told. Some P1 pupils have started to write their own stories.

Improving early literacy and the development of vocabulary is seen as one of the key drivers of raising attainment – children from low income households are more likely to have below average vocabulary as well as below average problem solving skills by aged 5. (http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00486755.pdf). We feel that adopting Helicopter Stories as an approach could have many benefits including improving literacy and joining up learning between early learning centres, primary schools and homes.

Within our Elgin nursery setting, children now choose to have their helicopter stories scribed every day. Whilst the benefits to children have been evidential (increased confidence, word recognition and other early literacy indicators) we have also been given some true insight into the hearts and minds of our children.

Sure we get a lot of walk on parts for Iron Man, but we have also seen recent learning or experiences written into the children’s stories. As they continue to write, so too do they develop the characters emotions, what they see and do. Giving us valuable insight into the lives, thoughts and feelings of our children.

With this information we are able to care for, support and develop our children better, and in a more bespoke way. When you are committed to a wholly child led practice it can sometimes be a challenge to measure the amount of info retained or the learning taking place.

Children have built a stage for their performances and whilst previously some were ‘reluctant circle timers’, now the enthusiasm to tidy up and get together is a profound change.

If you think helicopter stories could be a benefit to your school or setting we are hosting a training at our Elgin site with Trisha Lee!

Details can be found here: Training Calendar

For more information about Trisha Lee

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