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Part-time fairies wanted

THE ENCHANTED Forest has taken flight and travelled far from its origins in a small rural school in the Trossachs lent wings no doubt by the fairies who live under its leaves and branches.

A popular example of the Storyline approach to teaching, pioneered at Aberfoyle Primary, the Enchanted Forest transports pupils into their imaginations and out to the real world around them.

Appealing and motivating for pupils and teachers, Storyline could be achieved within the 5-14 guidelines, but not without considerable effort, says Lynda Bancroft, Learning and Teaching Scotland development officer. It is much more comfortable now in the capacious clothes of A Curriculum for Excellence.

"We came up with the idea of the enchanted forest when I was at Aberfoyle, working with headteacher Carol Omand, who has used Storyline for years," says Ms Bancroft. "It's a concept that is full of fun and excitement and magic. It was a big success with my Primary 1 class.

"We took advantage of the environment a wee oak woodland near the school and the David Marshall Lodge. That helped make it real for the kids. You might think that would exclude teachers in the city, but they can do it just as well using local parks."

A learner-centred approach conceived at Jordanhill College almost 40 years ago, Storyline has since spread to schools around the world. "You don't want it to seem contrived. So if topics in numeracy, say, don't seem to fit, you don't force them to," she says. "But it is designed to be used every day, across the curriculum."

In a Storyline project, the teacher creates an outline world for learning, with a few main characters and a thread of story running through it. Working together over a period of time, teacher and pupils then flesh out the setting, create new characters, answer questions and follow the story wherever it leads. Prior know- ledge in the children's minds forms a firm foundation for learning and exploration.

"The Enchanted Forest began for my kids when I arranged for a big elf puppet to be delivered to the school," says Ms Bancroft. "With a hand inside his head to work his mouth, I took the role of Brambleberry and started answering kids' questions about who I was and where I'd come from."

The next day, the children found a newspaper story beside the puppet, put together on the computer by Ms Bancroft. "It was about how Brambleberry had left the En-chanted Forest and found some nice children to play with. He was going to stay with them for a while, it said. The kids loved that.

"On the next page was an advert saying the Enchanted Forest was looking for 14 part-time fairies. They had to be kind, enjoy fun, and be good listeners and good readers."

Learning began by looking at what the pupils already knew about fairies and forests. "We took them to the woodland and then to the churchyard, where we collected autumn leaves. We brought them back to use in the Enchanted Forest we were putting together in a corner of the classroom. Then we thought about the animals that would live there."

All the artwork for this imaginative play area was created by the children, who also decided how and where it should be mounted.

"That was the big difference from anything I had done before, in which the teacher put work on the wall after the kids went home," say Ms Bancroft. "It made it their corner and their project."

This was one facet of the ownership by the children that is key to the success of the Enchanted Forest in particular and Storyline in general, she says.

"If the learner is given that ownership, it's a method that can be used throughout the school even in secondary and beyond. I even heard recently that they'd started training nurses using Storyline in Scandinavia."

Seconded to the Learning and Teaching Scotland team that is currently developing early years outcomes and experiences across the curriculum, Lynda Bancroft is convinced that Storyline is a method whose educational time has come.

"It is a wonderful vehicle for delivering A Curriculum for Excellence." sharingpracticeSchoolsAberfoyle


Scottish learning festival

Lynda Bancroft will talk about Storyline and the Enchanted Forest at this year's festival at the SECC in Glasgow, on September 19 at 5.45pm; www.scottishlearning

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