Saturday, 27 July 2013

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

I love story time! I have always loved a good story book and having the chance to share this with the children is an experience that I treasure.

I think that everyone is a story teller at heart, here are some of the methods I use at story time to keep the children engaged and interested:


I find that adding puppets can add a whole new dimension to the story! There are many ways that puppets can be used:

If you are using a book, you could hold up the puppets as they are mentioned in the story allowing the children to visualise the character as you read about them. You could even pause the story to have the puppet 'speak' to the children about their thoughts/ feelings at that point. Or let the children ask the puppet questions.

If you are telling a story from memory you can get really creative and have the puppets act it out.

You could use one large puppet to hold the book as you tell the story, or the puppet could be the story teller - just having this character involved can make story time different and exciting for the children!

You could also give puppets to the children, and let them act out the story as you tell it. This is great fun and gives the children something to hold which can help to stop them fiddling with themselves/everything around them!


This is one of my favourites!

You can use the whiteboard to draw the characters, scenes, and anything else throughout the story. You honestly don't have to be an artist to do this! I recently tried to draw the 3 Billy Goats Gruff from memory and they ended up looking like bizarre dogs with horns which the children (and staff) had a good laugh at, but it was a very successful story time!

You could also allow the children to have a go at drawing the characters.

The great thing about whiteboards is that you can continually edit your picture to fit with what is happening in the story.

Using the children's names

Imagine finding yourself as a character in your favourite story! Well you can do this for your children by cleverly replacing the names of some of the characters with their own names! For example instead of Goldilocks discovering the 3 bears house, it could be little Susan discovering the house of Fred, Ted and Billy! Simple!

Making up a story

If you're particularly imaginative, you could have a go at making up your own story! I find the best ones involve the children, the nursery, their own homes or something else that is well known to them.
Maybe you could even add in some familiar characters like Bob the Builder or Peppa Pig!
You may even want to let the children help to create/ tell the story in their own words.  This usually works better with slightly older children and can be used as a fun circle time activity where each child takes a turn to add a little more to the story. You'll be amazed at what they can come up with!

Reading from the book

Of course, you can't beat a traditional story time with a good book. It's so important to get children interested and excited about books at an early age. It makes me sad to think that some children miss out on the wonder of getting sucked into another world full of adventure and magic and grow into young people who think books are 'boring'!

While reading from a book you could try:
  • holding your finger underneath each word as you read - showing the children at you read from left to right and encouraging them to begin to recognise some simple words.
  • Using different voices for the characters
  • Using songs and music throughout the story 
I believe that on first reading of a book, it it best to keep the flow and read it through from start to finish.
After reading the story a few times, and when the children have an understanding of the story, you can pause at certain points and ask questions such as...
"What do you think ___ is feeling?"
"Why do you think ___ did/said that?"
"What would you do?"
"What do you think will happen next?" (This one can also work on first reading of a story, if you are developing the children's ability to predict and guess)

Children telling the story

My children LOVE to play teachers. So sometimes I allow them to take turns sitting on the teacher's chair and using a familiar book to tell the story to their friends.

Some other ideas
  •  Use a particular 'Story chair' (decorated perhaps) that the children will associate with story time
  • In the same way, you could have a special 'story apron' or other item of clothing that when you put on, the children understand that it is time to sit and listen to a story. If you use an apron, you could keep puppets or other props in the pockets!

 Please let me know if you have any other ideas or methods that you find helpful. I'm always looking for inspiration!

Good luck Story Tellers!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

When bad weather turns into great learning!

Today I woke up full of ideas and plans to begin our activities and learning about tennis (following Andy Murray's spectacular performance not that long ago which many of the children were aware of and interested in) but the weather had other ideas. As I drove to work I watched the dark clouds roll overhead and saw a few spots of rain. "Not to worry" I thought, "we can still go onto the courts and throw the balls about, a bit of rain wont stop us!"

I arrived at work and before I started organising my plans, I began by setting up our computer so that the children could watch a news clip about William and Kate's baby boy (Congratulations!) We got into a discussion about what we thought the baby should be named and the children had some interesting suggestions, the most popular of which seemed to be Jesus!

By this time, the rain had really started to pour down and I was not feeling quite so optimistic about using the tennis courts. I was looking out of the window, deciding whether to brave taking a group out into the garden for splishy splashy puddle play when... A huge rumble of thunder clapped overhead... and another one... and another, all in a short space of time! 
A couple of the children were feeling a little bit frightened at this point, but most were amazed at this dramatic weather. Then we began to see the lightning and the children decided that they wanted to stand at the door and watch.
What happened next was like something out of a cartoon: The children were all stood at the door, watching the rain tumble down and watching for lightning. They were getting used to the thunder by now and were saying to each other "we're not scared are we? We like the thunder and lightning" 
Suddenly all of the nursery lights flickered off and on and then there was the LOUDEST clap of thunder that you've ever heard! Together as one, the children turned with looks of surprise and panic on their faces and ran into the arms of my colleague and I who were standing just behind them. It took a moment but when they were all feeling safe again they began to laugh. 

What a fantastic opportunity for some learning! We used the computer to find out what causes the thunder sound and then the children had a go at creating their own thunder sounds by clapping their hands and stamping their feet. They also listened to other sounds that they could hear around the nursery and spoke about whether they were loud sounds or quiet sounds. We then spoke about the lightning and found out what causes it. We talked about electricity and why the children thought the lights had flickered and we even talked about how light travels to our eyes faster than sound travels to our ears!

The children were very disappointed when the rain stopped and continued to ask throughout the day if the thunder would be back!
It just goes to show, even though I wasn't able to carry out my plans, the children experienced something really exciting and were able to learn so much through it!
Hooray for Scottish Summers!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

As if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared!

Let's bring the magic back into childhood! I just love that glint of wonder in a child's eyes when they believe something that is unbelievable.

The other day at nursery, I was about to take the children out on a walk around the grassy and wooded areas. I had no real plans apart from to get the children out because they needed some fresh air and to burn off steam. I watched them as they put on their wellies and wondered 'how can I make this walk magical?' and so I began to tell them a story...

I told them of a special friend of mine who just happened to be a fairy. I explained how my friend was very sad because her tree house had been cut down, and now she had nowhere to live!

By this point all of the children were engaged (boys and girls alike), all with looks of concern on their faces that made me want to giggle - but that would spoil the moment, so I asked the children what they thought we could do for my friend.

They came to the decision that we should find my friend a new home. They discussed amongst themselves how there were lots of trees around our nursery, and we could find one that was just right. We decided to take a digital camera out with us, so that we could take photographs of the trees - nicely linking in the technology side of the curriculum for me!

And off we set, investigating every tree that we stumbled upon. The children quickly wrote off some trees as too small, too thin, too ugly - linking in descriptive language and some mathematical comparisons too.

As we walked, one of the children asked me "is this real, or is it just pretend?"
This caused me a small dilemma,  I don't like to tell children flat out lies BUT I didn't want to spoil the magic, so I said "well, I believe it's real. What do you believe?" It took her a minute to reply. You could almost see the cogs turning in her mind until finally she replied "I think you're making it up!"

Feeling a little deflated, but not wanting to let it ruin our fun, I shrugged it off and continued with the group to look at many, many trees until the children finally decided on a beautiful big old tree with a hole at the top which they agreed could be a window.
The children took it upon themselves to decorate the tree and spent ages finding pretty little flowers, feathers, leaves and all sorts of other natural resources which they placed on and around the tree until they were satisfied that the fairy would love it.

By this time the children were due to get some lunch, so I lead them inside and promised that we could go back to visit the tree in the afternoon.
While they sat eating, and after scribbling down some notes of all the fantastic learning that had taken place that morning, I headed out to the tree alone, armed with glitter and a note - addressed to the children from 'Fern the Fairy.'

In the afternoon, the children were eager to get back to their special tree, so again we got wellies on and walked out across the grass. As we got closer, the children noticed that something was different.
They began to run and shout with excitement! I watched as they circled the tree, following the glitter trails with wide eyes until they saw the note rolled up and pegged on a branch.
The little girl who earlier had been an unbeliever jumped up and down and cried "it's a note! It's a note for me!"
I read the note to the children which told them how happy Fern was with her new home and how she was so grateful to them for decorating it for her.

Now, I expected the learning to end there - we had completed everything that I had planned for and as far as I was concerned, it was quite a success! But the children had other ideas; on their return to nursery they proceeded to draw pictures and write letters to Fern. They took the idea into their role play and I even heard them discussing it while playing in the sand tray!

As for the little girl who hadn't believed in my friend the fairy: when her Mum came to pick her up she said "Mum, fairies ARE real! I know because we saw one!"

So much learning with just a touch of magic!