When I was young, there was a TV programme called 'Storybook International' and although it was actually an incredibly disappointing watch most of the time, I absolutely loved the animated title sequence with its cartoon fox and Robin Hood-esque storyteller playing his lute. It was truly, truly magical and for those two minutes, the world felt alive with endless possibility and something that lay beyond life on a housing estate with its copycat houses, middle England-ism and the illusion of Thatcherism's new world order. It was akin to watching the video for 'Rio' by Duran Duran, a doorway to a world far away burning bright with optimism's flame. If you've no idea what I'm talking about then here's the opening titles...
Rio by Duran Duran - though perhaps this video is more like a glorified Bounty bar advert, it's worth watching just to see John Taylor :)
Storytelling in the classroom however, can seem like anything other than a Bounty bar advert, with no yachts, white sand, or John Taylor in sight. Instead it frequently feels like a performance that at any moment might tip over the edge or descend into mumbling of forgotten lines that no matter how much you rehearsed the night before, just will not stick.
For all its potential for language development, high engagement, writing, collaboration, role play and above all, joy, the undoubted impact of storytelling relies on one thing to be effective: you.
It's always good to talk and it's even better to talk to others who get 'you' and understand that play is such an important key to effective child development. So imagine my surprise when the fab Vanessa Dooley from Jigsaw Early Years Consultancy invited me to share my thoughts on the reasons behind my passion and my approach to Early Years.
The recording of our discussion is below and I hope it inspires you to reflect on your own personal 'why'. I also hope you enjoy the moment where we compare sheds and muse over the word 'mizzling'...
Is music dying a death in Early Years? It certainly seems to have done so further up in school and often appears to be something only accessible through after school clubs and private lessons. It feels like music is slowly slipping out of Early Years too now that the agenda of ‘school readiness’ has taken its grip. There seems to be little time to pursue music and dance with all its joy and movement and song. Instead we find ourselves slogging reading, writing and mathematics. We succumb to the expectations of school-ification. Musicality gets pushed out to the fringes and I can say this because to my shame, its exactly what can sometime happen in my own setting in spite of good intentions.
It’s a huge shame because after all, with its inherent rhyme and rhythm, pattern and repetition, music has such a significant connection to literacy and communication skills. I keep coming back to the idea that all writing, reading and mathematics is about ‘message’ - the notion that it should be personal and purposeful with an intended audience who may respond - and this could also very easily be applied to music too.
I’ve never really been into ‘clubbing’ or dancing for that matter as I’ve little bodily coordination or self-rhythm, so I’ve tended to avoid clubs as best I can. Even more of a reason is that clubs are often full of people who probably should have gone home earlier than they chose to...
There’s a YouTube video doing the rounds currently comparing modern day clubbing to that of 1990. The difference is pretty clear! Arguably the 2018 video doesn’t really suggest it’s a club as such, it looks more like a upcycled house party but that’s by the by. The video is here:
What is so striking about the 2018 video is the interactions between the young people. If you look, the majority of them are on their phones either taking selfies or messaging. In the 1990s video there is a sense of collectivity and connectivity - it feels like there’s a union between people brought together by something outside themselves, an energy that is combining people in a common purpose in a specific moment. They are present.
Fast forward to 2018 and the people dancing are all seemingly at mixed purposes. There’s little unity, certainly no collective bond and there seems to be scant energy. Yes, I’m sure they were enjoying themselves but for me, what struck me most was how in the space of 28 years our concept of what creates connectivity has changed beyond recognition. The phone companies have brilliantly sold a dream about connection through mobiles - they’ve told us that we can be closer, more popular, more relevant, and more alive but in some ways the opposite is actually true. I’d say that the 2018 shots sum up how little we live in the present.
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....