Primary English - Spinning a yarn gets pupils ahead

A "talking head" that tells stories is helping primary pupils improve their listening and writing skills.

Storyteller Phil McDermott, (below), features on seven Storyspinner DVDs, reading stories ranging from The Three Billy Goats Gruff for reception children, to Theseus and the Minotaur for Year 4, and two three-part stories for Year 6.

Each story is told without visual effects, with pupils simply watching the storyteller speak.

The DVDs have been trialled in Birmingham, where an initial evaluation found they helped to engage children, improve writing and boost confidence in speaking aloud.

Speaking and listening was historically the weakest part of the English curriculum, but has been given more focus since the literacy framework was renewed in 2006.

Children are now expected to listen to tapes or video in Year 1 and give their opinions on how a story has been presented. By Year 6 they are expected to analyse rhetoric and gesture.

An interim evaluation of the DVDs was carried out by Eve Bearne, of the University of Cambridge, and Marilyn Mottram, who is a school effectiveness adviser for Birmingham.

They found the DVDs raised standards in writing through improving children's story structure, vocabulary and use of punctuation.

Maria Brosnan, managing director of Storyspinner, said: "Having a DVD rather than a CD means children focus on his face, it helps them to concentrate. It also gives a male presence in the classroom, which can be particularly helpful for boys."

The company is now working on providing teacher training, through local authorities, to accompany the DVDs.

It is also launching a bespoke storytelling service at 10 schools in Milton Keynes next week. They have had a story written for them about the origins of the town.

www.thestoryspinner.co.uk. The full set of DVDs costs Pounds 399 plus VAT. The DVDs can be bought separately for Pounds 99 plus VAT.

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