Over the course of a 4-month period, the Story Spinner was the subject of an evaluation by Eve Bearne (Cambridge University) and Marilyn Mottram (Birmingham Education). Download the full report.
The key findings from their evaluation showed clear improvements in all aspects of literacy:
- The achievements of all children involved indicate that The Story Spinner stories have contributed significantly to raising standards in speaking and listening.
- Noticeable gains have been seen in writing. The structure as well as the imaginative content of the children’s told and written narratives improved noticeably over the course of one term.
- The stories have helped to raise attainment in reading, as children could watch stories then transfer their understanding to stories in books.
- The stories provided support for more flexible and creative planning and teaching, fitting well with the revised Literacy Framework and offering a variety of assessment opportunities in reading, speaking and listening and writing.
- Teachers’ classroom practice developed significantly as a result of the project. There is good evidence of the potential of The Story Spinner DVDs for supporting professional and curriculum development within schools. For example, through staff development sessions and in using the stories in different curriculum areas.
Comments by teachers involved in the project:
“Watching the DVDs and listening to stories sparked off the children’s own imaginative inner worlds which became evident in the content of their stories.”
“You wouldn’t expect it – because there are no extra visual effects – but it is almost as though it means more to them because there isn’t any of the sort of movement and action that they are used to and they lean forward and want to hear more and more…”
“He gives them a higher order of language and they just suck it in. You can talk with them easily about similes and vocabulary because they are inside it. The wealth of language they have picked up is incredible. It’s another friend in the classroom for us. The children shout ‘Here comes Phil’.”
Growing confidence as writers
When the teachers analysed the children’s writing at the end of the first phase of the project, a number of common features were noted. The beneficial effects on writing included:
- Improved sequencing of events. The children showed greater confidence in planning, clearly knowing what it was they wanted to write after having had the experience of telling and re-telling stories orally in the classroom.
- Greater attention to characterisation. Many of the children demonstrated a greater understanding of character by including characters’ thoughts and motivation in their written stories. Equally, they were able to develop more multifaceted characterisation.
- A more assured story voice. There was a significant increase in children’s use of adventurous vocabulary and imagery. More complex sentence structure and the use of rhetorical techniques, such as repetition for emphasis or for creating narrative tension, were also noted.
- Improved use of punctuation. Explicit discussion of the cadences of storytelling, including pauses for effect, meant that children became more aware of the function and importance of punctuation.
“They love seeing things over and over again. They love the familiarity of the stories – they want to watch them over and over.”
A second study was carried out by Josephine Brady and Elaine Millard in association with NATE [National Association for the Teaching of English] as part of a program called 'Inspire Rotherham'. Download the full report.
The key finding from their evaluation can be summarised:
“What can be claimed without reservation is that the tales told by a skilled storyteller had powerfully engaged the children’s interest so that they remembered the language they had heard and were able in context to translate this into richer ways of developing their own story characters and narrative sequence. Most had achieved a ‘more assured story voice’. This had found expression in this project through their written retellings.”