The idea for Storytime assembly came about when I was looking for a way to give staff a bit of extra-time every week. I’ve always been passionate about the importance of story and children being read to, so it started as a natural progression from that.
There was a purely selfish element to starting it on my part, I missed reading stories to children, I missed the joy, the art of reading a story to a group of children. It’s always been one of things that I could do well. I made an active decision that it would be about sharing stories and to not let it be overwhelmed by the messages from those stories. (generally, that is the case, but you can’t ignore the lessons great stories tell us).
In the first year I had all the children together, EY all the way Year 6. Whilst it was great it was also a bit limiting. I had to make active choices about texts that all could access.
I just picked stories, there was no real rhyme or reason to it, they were just stories I liked. Sometimes that was not always the best choice, reading for 230 pupils is different to reading to a class. I learnt very quickly that some stories worked much better than others. I also found that authors worked better for me in an assembly context. (I’ll share some of those later)
Each week I would bring new stories or poems and read, and it was great I did however find my-self returning to stories and books. Some stories began to adapt for the assembly. Revisiting became part of the structure of the session, returning to stories I often found children joining in and the telling became communal rather than solitary, some stories naturally lent themselves to performance and children now often come and take parts in the story-telling, being characters and helping our youngest children understand the story.
The assembly began to develop its own structure, we would revisit an older story, share a new, have a performance story and share poems. Keep focussed on the joy of the story and the almost tactile relationship between the teller and the audience.
I have a box for Storytime assembly books in my office (mainly so I can find them I have a lot of books in my office). I do read them, and I do practice the storytelling. There is an art to it. Knowing the books well allows yow to craft the telling.
I was lucky enough to get to do a Storytime assembly at #PrimaryRocks last year. There is a video somewhere.
This year I do two assemblies one for Early Years/Key stage 1 and one for Key Stage 2. This has allowed me to adapt the content for Key Stage 2, we now have an ongoing narrative/chapter story where we recap on the story. It means I can also share my love of Paul Jennings stories. We still however have picture books and shared performance, I’ve continued to try to keep the ‘something old, something, new’ mantra.
Ultimately, it’s a joy for me, the children get to hear brilliant stories. I don’t have any evidence that it develops children’s learning, but genuinely I can’t think of a better way to give teachers and extra block of time above and beyond their PPA every week.
Story time assembly tips.
- Pick books you like…it shows. Trudging through a book that you really don’t like will only transmit to your class that you don’t really like it. You are the teacher the choice is yours. I get that world cups of books can be motivating I would just say make sure you’re happy with the books you’re offering as a choice.
- Knowing the book well helps you read it well. Knowing the story, the characters the key moments allows to share the story more effectively. Knowing the book allows you to become the controller of the story and how it plays out. It also helps you know where the sticking points might be.
- It is a performance, reading aloud is a thing that we need to practice. It takes time to get good at it. Start with some great short stories or some brilliant poetry build your repertoire and confidence. (Paul Jennings was always my go to. I’m still a dab hand at Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake)
- Go under the ‘spell.’ Allow your book to flow and get lost in it together. Get lost in the power of the story. Those moments when children are literally hanging on your every word waiting for the reveal are just amazing
- Remember the audience, there is an element of pantomime to reading to a hall full of children.
- Think about the structure of the assembly, the balance of texts, don’t be afraid of repetition and familiarity.
- ENJOY!!! Have a blast!!!
This is a small list of books and authors; I’m just going to highlight the books that really work for me and form my core #StorytimeAssembly choices. They are mainly chosen because of how they work with an audience.
‘That Rabbit belongs to Emily Brown’ by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton
Just my favourite read aloud ever… I do voices
‘Read the Book Lemmings’ and ‘Horrible Bear’ by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah O’Hara
‘Dandy’ by Ame Dyckman and Charles Santoso
Amy’s books have a brilliant read aloud rhythm and are fantastically funny (she really knows how to write a joke). The art is equally simple and arresting that helps it work with an audience. Read the book is possibly the best book for shared performance.
‘Secret Sky Garden’ by Linda Sarah and Fiona Lumbers
Perfect for a bit of quiet beauty with a room full of people
‘Little Red’ by Bethan Woolvin
Great retelling of Red Riding Hood with a twist
‘Grumpy Frog’ By Ed Vere
Genius levels of funny
‘Not Now Bernard’, ‘Elmer’ by David Mckee
‘Oh No! George!’, ‘Shhhh!’
‘Don’t worry Little Crab’ both by Chris Haughton.
Chris is a master of the simple repeating narrative making his books perfect for the join in and read aloud.
‘Would You rather?’ by John Burningham
There is not a better Question and answer response book ever, wild and just a bit anarchic. Perfect, for interaction with just a bit of gross out humour.
‘The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors’ by Drew Daywalt and Adam Rex
Perfect for parts and over the top performance. It’s an assembly fave.
‘Look Up’ by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola
This is a new favourite, great characters and a delightful story
‘Something Else’ by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell
Just a perfect story
‘Diary of a killer Cat’ by Anne Fine
A perfect short chapter read
(KS2) Loads of Paul Jennings short stories (favourites are, Exposer, Licked, Wunderpants, Strap Box Flyer, Only Gilt amongst many).
I have relied on Paul Jennings for the last 26 years… He has never let me down
Joan Aiken Short stories especially ‘A Necklace of Raindrops’
Also a range of great poetry
Michael Rosen, Joseph Coelho, Allan Allburg, Paul Cookson, Rachel Rooney new this term is Matt Goodfellow.
Love Paul Jennings’ books. My teacher recommended them to me in year 5 and I still love them. Have recommended them to my teacher friends for their classes.
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I love this idea Simon. Do you find difficulties with large group of children being able to see the pictures in the book? Or do you put image on to screen etc?
Often project it up, so they can see it.