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Storytelling for Early Years: Setting the Scene

Stories are incredibly important for both children and adults alike. Stories have played a fundamental role in the human story, of how we come to understand the world we are in, how we relate to things, and our relationship to them.

Stories form a critical part in our early learning. Through effective storytelling, we can improve children’s language and vocabulary, express abstract ideas and theoretical situations in an easily digestible format and instil a love of words and reading.

They are adventures to different places and times, with new characters to meet and know. This is why good storytelling is essential, and we should find ways to engage children with the story, to spark their interest and imaginations.

In order to spark and retain children’s interest before a story starts, it’s important to set the scene. If reading something based in the woods, such as Winnie The Pooh or The Gruffalo, why not go on a nature walk so that the children can experience some of what the characters will see, smell and feel? Emphasise the sensory aspect by crunching leaves under your feet and letting them see the fun of it, or showing the rough bark of a tree. Taking them out into nature and giving them the opportunity to explore it will give them lots of moments to hark back to when you tell the story, and you can always ask them what they smelled, saw or explored while walking.

If a trip to the scene isn’t feasible (for example, a beach trip in January!), feel free to replicate it in your setting. A Tuff Spot filled with sand, some shells and a bowl of salty water is an easy ‘beach’ that facilitates the children to physically interact with elements while the story is being told. For the story of the Three Little Pigs, some straw, twigs and a brick would be perfect for a sensory demonstration before the story, talking to the children about how the items feel, how easy they are to bend or blow away! The items used to set the scene don’t need to be complicated, just something that brings more of a 3D element to the narrative.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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If an outdoors or sensory experience is not possible, there are still lots of ways to set the scene for your story in the classroom.

You could print out some images to aid the storytelling, helping children to visualise the action better. These don’t need to be specific to one individual story. In fact, more generic scenes like a forest or snowscape will spark the children’s interest while empowering them to imagine the scene in their own way. Cuddly toys or figurines could also be used to signify different characters. Don’t worry – you don’t need to put on a full-blown puppet show (unless the fancy takes you!) but rather, like the generic scenery, can use the toys as indicators for each character, helping your Early Years visualise the story better.

Do you have any tips on how to keep your Early Years captivated by storytelling? Or maybe you have a favourite book that always sparks their imagination! Share your ideas with us on social media, using the hashtag #TNLstorytime

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