Exceptional Education at the Heart of the Community

Celebrating the power of storytelling
Celebrating the power of storytelling

We are delighted to share this special blog in honour of National Storytelling Week (w/c 30th January), written by one of our English National Lead Practitioners, Ms.Sacks.

National Storytelling Week is a time to celebrate the power of sharing stories. The National Literacy Trust say that “stories teach us about the world; they allow us to step into someone else’s shoes and feel empathy, they help us to relax and escape and they can help develop essential literacy skills.”

But I think stories mean more than stepping into someone else’s shoes and feeling empathy. As the National Curriculum Lead for English, I think about stories a lot. I know that the texts we choose to include in the OCL English Curriculum are important because they determine the stories that our students get to hear. I also know that the sequencing of these texts; the connections we prompt students to notice and the contrasts we support students to observe, contribute to a bigger story.

Expert storytellers, expert writers, expert speakers all have something in common: the ability to notice, respond to and, ultimately, create patterns. And so, when we choose the individual stories that students read and write in our curriculum, we are also thinking about what these stories teach our students about the patterns that exist in literature. The ability to recognise and respond to these patterns is a superpower and it’s one that every student deserves to have.

For example, when Year 7s learn about the forthright Antigone, who defies her family’s wishes, they aren’t just learning about the story of that individual character. They’re learning that characters in literature often choose to go against expectations to do what they think is right. And so, when they meet Binti in Nnedi Okorafor’s novella in Year 8, they notice that Binti, too, defies her family’s wishes when she goes to Oomza Uni instead of staying with the Himba people. But, students notice that in this story, transgression isn’t punished; it leads to freedom and excitement for Binti. And then, when they meet Meena in Meera Syal’s Anita and Me in Year 9, they notice this pattern in storytelling again! Meena, like Binti and Antigone, has a desire to disobey and challenge her parents. But, in this story, students see that a characters’ disobedience can lead to both tragedy and victory. Finally, when students meet Sheila in J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls in Year 10, they are able to approach this character armed with a complex understanding of the patterns in stories that are common across literature: their superpower! Like Antigone, Binti and Meena, Sheila disobeys her parents. This time, though, we hear the story of a character who transgresses expectations in order to fight for social justice.

This, to me, is the most exciting thing about storytelling: the knowledge that, if we pick rich texts and teach the common threads that run through them, all of the stories we hear and all of the stories we tell are connected together to form the most important story of all: the story of literature.

Celebrating the power of storytelling
Hannah Skinner