Our bright idea: Listen in

Jean Evans
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another dimension of storytelling is opened up with the use of a learning device described by Jean Evans.

Staff at Rainbow Nursery are always looking for new ways to nurture children's listening and communication skills and provide them with exciting opportunities to enjoy the written and spoken word.

Favourite stories are frequently re-enacted through child-initiated imaginative play, using small-world characters and construction equipment. Children are keen to represent stories by their favourite authors using mark-making and creative media.

Our recent purchase of a set of Story Phones has meant that children can enjoy listening to stories whenever and wherever they wish. These colourful phones, conceived by Eleanor Johnson, an EYFS teacher, are easy to operate.

Eager to involve parents, nursery manager Karen Crawford set up a display in the entrance to introduce the Story Phones to them and to explain the learning opportunities they offer.

Show independence in selecting and carrying out activities
Listen to stories with increasing attention and recall
Listen to and enjoy rhythmic patterns in rhymes and stories
Have some favourite stories, rhymes, songs, poems or jingles
Know how to operate simple equipment
Introduce a storyline or narrative into their play


Hessian; photographs of children re-enacting stories and using the phones in different play situations; laminated EYFS links and captions based on children's comments; props to link with a story from one of the phones; set of Story Phones (www.storyphones.co.uk), laminated images of book covers with some of the text on the reverse.


Karen explains:

  • - We took photographs of the children re-enacting their favourite stories and noted the language used - for example, when playing with wood offcuts there were aspects of several stories emerging, including those invented by the children based on their growing interest in fantasy worlds:
  • This bit's for the mouse to walk with the Gruffalo. This is the big forest and look, there is the water under the bridge. The fox is waiting in his house for the mouse 'cause he is hungry. My house is for snake, it's only little.Oh crumbs, I have to go. The fox is scared of the Gruffalo so he runs away.Swishy swashy tip toe tip toe hoo woo we there. Look, I can see the cave - it's dark.
  • - The photographs and comments were used to create a large display in the book corner to celebrate the children's initiated activities linked to their favourite stories.
  • - At this point we bought the Story Phones with funding from our involvement with ECAT (Every Child a Talker).
  • - When we had explored the pack and were familiar with how to use the phones, we introduced them to the children. Once we knew that they could share their enthusiasm and explain the new resource to their parents, we created an interactive display for families.
  • - First, we backed a display board with hessian and attached photographs of the children using the phones alone and with friends. Their comments were displayed alongside, as well as links to the EYFS. A simple diagram of the controls was included so children could talk informatively to their parents about how to use the phones.
  • - The children helped to create a table display by choosing a favourite story and helping us arrange the contents of the relevant story sack on the table in front of the wall display. They chose Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and sat the owl family and a copy of the book among the green branches. The phone docking station was included on this table.
  • - Each phone contains different stories and/or songs and has a distinctive band in one of the colours of the rainbow. We laminated coloured images of each phone along with a labelled pictorial list of the contents and hung these next to the table. These images help children to choose the phone with the story they want to hear.
  • - A branch was hung above the display to suspend laminated images of the book covers from the phones, with some text on the reverse.
  • - Now that we are all familiar with the Story Phones, we are considering recording our own stories and songs using the built-in microphone. We can download additional stories and songs at any time for a fee, rather like the concept of iTunes.

Sheila Gardiner is the director and Karen Crawford is the manager of Rainbow Nursery, Middleston Moor, Co Durham. They spoke to Jean Evans



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