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Train your team to use Helicopter Stories

  • Train your team to use Helicopter Stories

With MakeBelieve Arts’ award-winning online CPD, you can harness the power of storytelling in your setting and support children’s learning across the EYFS…

“Story is the essential culture builder and learning tool of any society or family or classroom. The child within us and the children in our classes yearn for story.”
Vivian Gussin Paley

This is a tale of how one child, anxious on her first day at nursery, found a community through Helicopter Stories. It shows us, as practitioners, that transforming a child’s day can be as simple as some masking tape, a sheet of A5 paper and a pen.

Rebecca peered out from behind her Dad’s legs and watched silently. Her sobs quietened, and the tears began to dry on her cheeks.

She stared at the masking tape stage on the floor. A group of children had gathered around it and were busily acting out the stories they had told earlier that morning. Rebecca wasn’t ready to sit with them. She gripped tightly onto Dad’s trousers.

Today was Rebecca’s first day. This was a strange new world, a big and noisy world, so different from the quiet of her front room during lockdown.

Although Dad had made several attempts to leave, Rebecca wasn’t having any of it. But there was something about that masking tape stage and how the other children responded to it that made Rebecca curious.

“This is Toyo’s story,” said the teacher. “Toyo is going to be a penguin.” Rebecca leaned out from behind Dad’s legs. “A big penguin,” read the teacher.

A small girl with dark hair stood up. “Toyo, can I see you pretending to be the penguin?” Toyo waddled around the stage, her hands by her side like wings, the perfect penguin.

“Shall we all pretend to be penguin’s waddling around the stage?” asked the teacher.

Rebecca’s new peers, with the guidance of their practitioner, were bringing the room to life with a Helicopter Stories session.

The children jumped up and began waddling and toddling backwards and forwards. Behind Dad’s legs, Rebecca started to sway, just a little bit at first, then a bit further.

She took a step forward, and another, and another until suddenly she was standing in the enormous gap between Dad and the stage. The practitioner smiled at her.

“It’s Michael’s story next,” she said. “A tiger. One, two tiger. One, two lion. A tiger.” Soon all the children were clambering and crawling, tigers and lions, moving around the stage, growling gently.

Rebecca took another step. “Grrrrrr,” she whispered. “Grrr, grrr, grrr”. And then, to everyone’s surprise, she placed her hands on the floor and began to crawl.

As Rebecca crept onto the stage, the other children made room for her. She crawled around with them, growling happily. A lion nuzzled against her.

Rebecca had found her pride.

Here, we begin to see how a child, spurred on by the enthusiasm of her classmates, becomes part of a storytelling community. Rebecca finds her pride through story – a way of understanding the world that comes so naturally to young children.

Helicopter Stories explained

“They do not pretend to be storytellers; they are storytellers. It is their intuitive approach to all occasions. It is the way they think.”
Vivian Gussin Paley

Helicopter Stories is a programme based on children’s instinctive need for story and fantasy play. Adapted from the work of early childhood researcher Vivian Gussin Paley, and pioneered by us – the charity MakeBelieve Arts – it uses the power of storytelling to develop key curriculum areas such as creativity, communication and language, and personal, social and emotional skills in the early years.

At its most basic, Helicopter Stories asks a practitioner to scribe children’s stories verbatim and support them in acting out their narratives.

At MakeBelieve Arts, we are passionate about the value of children’s stories and the importance of Helicopter Stories in supporting their growth as storytellers. This is why we are delighted that our online training for practitioners – Helicopter Stories On Demand – is the overall winner of the CPD category in the Teach Early Years Awards 2022.

Helicopter Stories On Demand offers:

● 24 bite-sized videos alongside in-depth commentary from Trisha Lee, explaining how to deliver Helicopter Stories.

● One year of access and on-demand professional development for up to four practitioners.

● Actual footage of children aged two to seven engaging with Helicopter Stories, as well as invaluable anecdotes and reflections.

● Downloadable PDFs, simple tasks and additional reading suggestions to support your learning.

Throughout this online course, Trisha Lee reflects on the power of Helicopter Stories and the impact it has on children aged two to seven.

You can also buy Trisha Lee’s books, Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories (2016) for a how-to guide, or The Growth of a Storyteller (2022) for explorations on the powerful impact of Helicopter Stories. Both are available here.

What is Helicopter Stories On Demand from MakeBelieve Arts on Vimeo.