Storytyne Gateshead

For me, narrative is at the heart of learning, so you can guess how delighted I was to be part of the Storytyne Conference in Gateshead on Friday. Organised by the irrepressible Steve Bunce (@stevebunce), Regional Manager of Vital in the North East, the event was headlined by the amazing Tim Rylands, aided and abetted by his lovely partner Sarah (@sarahneild). If there’s anyone out there promoting literacy for young people in more exciting and innovative ways than this couple, I’d like to meet them. It also gave me the opportunity to meet and hear a number of people I had only met previously on Twitter, including Bill Lord (@Joga5), who certainly didn’t disappoint. A great storyteller himself, Bill shared with us some of his work as a Primary Literacy Adviser, which he does with such enthusiasm that he has been known to dress up as Burglar Bill to take part in a webcast with kids from various schools. Both Tim and Bill have blogged at length about Friday’s event. Read their accounts of the day’s events here and here.

For my own part, it gave me the opportunity to introduce a whole new group of teachers to the joys of Inanimate Alice, the digital novel which I have spoken about previously in the blog. Breaking my own rules on PowerPoint, where I would normally focus on images and very few words, this time I put together a few slides consisting of some powerful quotes – gathered mainly from the Inanimate Alice website – which represent a small sample from teachers around the world. If you follow the links on the last slide you will find some interesting resources as well as some lesson plans and case studies. You can also catch up with Alice and friends on Twitter and Facebook.

In the final session of the day, Tim and Sarah rattled through some of the many free Web tools which are available to help teachers and young people develop their language skills. I will be reviewing some of these in the weeks to come, but if you can’t wait to find out what they are you can find links to all of them here. This list was created using Linkbunch, another handy little tool I hadn’t heard of before. As if that wasn’t enough, delegates left with a handful of goodies, including the very useful Thinking Dice, and they were even invited to take away their own ‘storychairs’.

In a very full and busy day, some of the key messages for teachers:

  • Storytelling is a vital part of learning. Do everything you can to encourage young people to tell their stories.
  • Think carefully about how you construct your own learning and teaching narratives.
  • Don’t be limited by outdated definitions of ‘text’.
  • There are no reluctant readers, only the wrong books.
  • There is a plethora of free online tools available to help you (and the kids) make exciting narratives, but it isn’t about technology. Talking and listening to stories, exploring, thinking critically, and creating, are what really matters.
  • Start with what they know. Young people who think that their stories are not worth telling, are wrong.
  • You can’t write about what you haven’t experienced. Immerse young people in experiences before asking them to write.
  • Visit other worlds, real and virtual. Put them in situations and ask them to record what they see, feel, hear, smell. Take time to look around.  One of my favourite quotes from Tim’s presentation: ‘Don’t just do something, stand there!’
  • Stories are not just about fantasy and make-believe. Information is communicated via stories too.

Thanks again to all of those who were involved and to the organisers, especially Steve Bunce, for a truly magical day. I hear a rumour that a storytelling roadshow may be in the pipeline, but like those subtly dropped hints about Christmas presents past, I don’t want to think about it too much in case it doesn’t happen.