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Insights | Story Talk

02 Dec 2018

This year we have introduced story talk to support language development through talk, to provide opportunities for children to share their ideas and thoughts, their knowledge and understanding about stories. Story talk will also promote good listening, being attentive for longer periods and turn taking. Children need to be able to talk before they can write. For children who can speak, talk is the most powerful tool they have. Talk matters as a way of…….
  • Communicating
  • Exploring, articulating and sharing ideas
  • Thoughts become language
  • Using language to learn with and from
  • Practice, develop and expand vocabulary
  • Asking questions and expressing opinions
  • Checking understanding
The aim of Story Talk is:
  • to provide children with vocabulary that they will be able to use every day
  • to support listening and engagement, encouraging participation in story telling as children become familiar with stories
  • to develop children’s understanding of stories – characters, setting and storyline
  • to develop children’s creativity – in retelling stories, making props, role playing stories and eventually creating their own stories as the best talk comes from something children are interested in
  • to support children’s language development and allow children time to talk
  • to support writing
Through story telling children can revisit and internalise story patterns and learn the building blocks of a narrative – common characters, settings, events. Children can extend their vocabulary, especially connectives that link and structure the story, for example once upon a time, one day, next, finally etc.  Most importantly, they develop an imaginative world of images that can be drawn on to invent new stories…. There are three stages to story-making: Imitation: participation, communal storytelling and then independent retelling.  Initial participation may involve repeating key words and phrases, repeated refrains of the story and then eventually retelling the story independently in their own words. This process will start with repeated shared retelling of the story, maybe using actions to support the storytelling. Innovation: substitution or addition, alteration, change viewpoint.  At this stage children will be able to change characters in the story, changing the story setting or changing the end of the story. The first and easiest innovation is changing characters for example, from pigs to kittens. Next may be to extend by adding characters, changing the ending. Invention: reusing patterns with new ideas, recording, acting, illustrating. At this stage children may write their own story using ideas from previous stories and incorporating their own ideas. Children may plan their story using a story map which is structured and follows learned story patterns. Story Talk develops children’s confidence and competence in talking and listening and provides a sound basis for reading and writing by being able to compare different versions of stories, allowing children to share their favourite books, having shared reading sessions and retelling stories.  Retelling can use story maps, sequencing, using puppets and props. Children love to create their own stories using story boxes, props, dressing up or retelling stories through drama and role play. Through enquiry, different types of questions can be asked to reveal children’s understanding and support their language development by asking questions before a story to provide a focus for listening, question a character from a familiar story or children can pretend to be a character and answer questions on how they think the character would and use riddles for children to solve. By surrounding children with the story, it provides the opportunity to repeat and expand on what children would say and model how to put words together.  Listen to what children say, follow their interests and have conversations to keep talk going and show an interest. Story Talk in practice


Stage 1 will focus on listening, children showing interest by wanting to see the pictures and joining in with key phrases in stories. In Five Little Ducks, initially repeating quack, quack, quack, quack and then eventually learning repeated refrains 5 little ducks went out one day….., then, 4 little ducks went out one day… etc. and maybe in Chinese joining in with the whole story.


Stage 2 will focus on active listening by repeating and joining in with key phrases, making predictions, mimicking the story, recalling the story through role play or with puppets, showing excitement and answering questions.  Children may be able to talk about their favourite character or part of the story or favourite story. Initially children will join in with the phrase ‘so I sent him back’ and learn adjectives to describe the animals, for example ‘He was too tall, so I sent him back’, children can guess that this will be a giraffe. 


Stage 3 will aimfor children to be involved and interacting, working with partners andmimicking the story, retelling own version and using the story in play.Childrenwill be able to share things that their dads can do or share things that theirmum can do.  

Stage 4 will aim to link stories to their own experiences, use story language in their own play/when responding to adults and create own stories.Children may be able change the animals in the story. 

In EY1


In EY2



In EY3, making a story map


In EY4, retelling the story


And writing 


Learning the actions


And finally, talk matters because…“Learning is a social activity “ (Bruner, 1994)