Creating “Helicopter Stories” in Pre-school

We are passionate about supporting children’s early language and communication skills at Townhouse. As one of the most important foundations of early learning, we adopt many different strategies to encourage and extend language, communication and imagination.

“Helicopter stories” is an approach to support communication and literacy based on the story telling and story acting curriculum of Vivian Guissin Paley. In its’ simplest form, helicopter stories let children dictate their own stories which are written down verbatim, exactly as they are told, and the children then gather round and take turns in acting these stories out.

Here’s Logan’s story:
“A big dinosaur went in to the forest and he found a big dragon. He saw one tree and he went in the cave and found two monkeys and they jumped about with them.”
– Logan, aged 4

Logan was delighted to be dictating his story and looked around the circle at everyone as he spoke, enjoying the reactions of his friends.

His story was short, simple but exciting! When we came to act the story out, he showed us how the dinosaur moved. Expecting him to run around the stage, roaring loudly, he instead surprised me! He formed his hands into claws, held his arms close to his body and walked confidently around the stage. We knew immediately that he was a Tyrannosaurus Rex!

The strength of Helicopter Stories is in allowing us to tap into the world of a child through their own voice and experience in a unique way. Through using this approach, we can see and value the knowledge our children have and appreciate their view of the world. This activity helped us learn lots about Logan, his passions and interests him and his own type of expertise and skill.

In its simplest form, Helicopter Stories gives the children opportunity to share their own stories which are written down exactly as the child tells it. The children take on the role of the story teller. The children would then gather around the stage, and given the role of story watchers who play the audience and watch the story performers who act out the story.

In action, it is a highly effective learning approach as it uses the power of storytelling to support areas such as creativity, communication and language and personal, social and emotional skills.

The children get the chance to share something that is of huge importance to them, developing their speaking and listening skills as they listen to others dictate their stories and build self confidence and self-esteem.

By having their words scribed, they make the connection between the spoken and the written word, supporting their developing writing skills and understanding of how stories are formed.

Scribing a story for a child, and supporting them to act it out, is an honour to be part of. It gives the chance for adults to step into a place that only children inhabit in their imaginations.

Our interest and passion for helicopter stories was ignited after a visit to Excalibur Primary School so thankyou to the lovely team there for sharing such wonderful practice.

Further reading:
Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories by Trisha Lee
https://helicopterstories.co.uk

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