Literacy nurtures intellectual and emotional development, and helps to spark imagination and creativity; skills that are hugely important, both in childhood and adulthood. However, according to the OECD, young people in the UK have the ‘lowest literacy levels’ in the developed world. This is not only a significant statistic, but one that can be easily improved by creating lessons that enthuse and engage young children.
May is National Share-A-Story Month, a celebration of stories, storytelling and story sharing, so now is the perfect opportunity for teachers to rewrite the current generation’s future.
Engage their inner thespian
Some of the most well-known literature, such as that created by Shakespeare, was intended to be performed, rather than simply read, so why not have your class bring their favourite story to life? Ask them to act out a section of a book to the rest of the class, using props and costumes to create the setting. Activities like this will help develop reading, storytelling and comprehension skills. It will also improve their confidence and understanding of how literature is more than just words on a page. Taking this one step further, ask pupils to create an alternative ending to a chapter or have them use their imagination to come up with their own story.
Variety is key
Some children are naturally drawn to the creative nature of fiction, whilst others prefer the truth and fact found in non-fiction prose, so have your pupils engage with both types of literature. Sharing a story doesn’t always mean that it has to be a product of a child’s imagination. You could ask your class to read a history book of their choice and then have them retell or recreate the story of Tutankhamun or Henry VIII, for example.
Capture the scene
Sometimes, helping pupils to visualise or capture a story can make all the difference to their appreciation of literacy, especially those who may struggle to read or write. Using resources and technology to do this can increase the subject’s appeal. For example, give pupils the opportunity to get hands-on by building a scene from a story, or from their own imagination. This gives pupils an alternative way of expressing and exploring their ideas, and using technology allows them to digitally capture their creations and develop their work further. All children have an imagination that needs to be explored and enthused, but sometimes this creativity needs to be accessed through a different process.
Illustrations boost imaginations
Why not have pupils read the same book and then illustrate their favourite parts of the story? This activity will develop their comprehension skills, whilst also revealing how one narrative can be interpreted in several different ways, as no one pupil is likely to draw out the same events. You could also have them read a story of their choice, or create their own tale, and add illustrations to their creation. They could then write down, or talk about the things they like or dislike about the narrative; perhaps they have a favourite character or dislike the conclusion? In literacy, there is no wrong answer, it’s open to interpretation so there is less fear of failure.
Spread the word
Make writers real people by exploring an author’s history and background; share your favourite prose and explain why you like it; join in with the class activities you set – children love to hear words of wisdom from their teachers. As educators we must do everything possible to stimulate a love of reading, storytelling and literature, so that our pupils grow up to be literate and cultured individuals.