Friday, January 26, 2018

The Science of Storytelling

Next week (January 27th to 3rd February) is National Storytelling week.  Human beings, of all ages, love stories and have done since the dawn of time, although these days we are more likely to be waiting for the next episode of our favourite soap opera than sharing tales around a log fire.

One of the ways that teachers can ensure that stories are given the prominence that they deserve within a crowded curriculum is to combine them with other subjects; stories make a fantastic starting point for science. Research shows that combining subjects in this way leads to improved outcomes in both.  Moreover, in their report, 'Maintaining Curiosity', OFSTED suggest that some of the best science happens in schools where links are naturally made between English and science. 

The structure of a story usually involves a situation or problem that needs to be solved and this is where science comes in!  Science is a means of investigating ways that problems can be solved, whether it is exploring the most effective material for making a house for the three little pigs or discovering which bowl of porridge will have cooled down the most before it is tasted by Goldilocks.

The CIEC resource Pencils, Poems and Princesses has a host of ideas for basing science investigations on three books; Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole, Grandfather’s Pencil and the Room of Stories by Michael Foreman and Out and About by Shirley Hughes.    

One of the investigations, prompted by Princess Smartypants, is to test different bags to see which is strongest and most suitable for carrying a lot of heavy shopping; this investigation is particularly pertinent in light of current interest in plastic waste and pollution.  It is important to give children time to plan the experiment for themselves.  For example, they may suggest testing bags to breaking point by filling them with heavy weights.  In this case they need to be encouraged to think about the safety implications of having heavy weights suddenly drop, and plan what they will do to make sure that no one is hurt.  This activity will give lots of opportunities for maths; perhaps children can make graphs to show how much each bag held before it broke?

Further cross curricular links can be made as children are supported to write to Prince Grovel to advise him of the best way to carry the Queen’s shopping.  If this is done during an English lesson no time need be taken from children’s science entitlement, and the teacher will be able to concentrate on supporting children with their English targets. Consequently, the writing is likely to be of a much higher standard than that done during a science lesson when the teacher is focussing on children’s science learning.   Nevertheless, the subsequent letters may well reveal children’s progress in science understanding and be a rich source for science assessment.

We would love to hear how you combine science and stories with your class.  Please let us know by leaving a comment below or tweeting us @ciecyork.

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