Storytelling, Immersion and SEN

I am a great fan of the power of storytelling in learning, it is enjoyable, fun, can be used to deliver messages or reinforce concepts or expected behaviours. My Mum owns a children’s bookshop in Herne Bay (Click Here for Site) and leads storytelling sessions in local schools. So I am just following in her footsteps.

I am also a great fan of putting on a show. Students in my school, and many many other schools, have severe communication difficulties. receptive language is impaired, reading and comprehension skills as we understand them limited. So why would someone sitting up front reading a book be in any way engaging or enjoyable?

Well it can be! You choose from your toolbox of teaching strategies, audio, visual, smells, taste, temperature, props, costumes, musical instruments, the list goes on…..

Pirate Scene
Pirate Scene

What this creates is the beginnings of an immersive environment. Children with communication difficulties will not take in everything you say. Whether you say it fast, slow, support with signing etc so this all encompassing approach ensures a higher level of engagement and enjoyment. No child will take in anything you say if you do not deliver it in a way that grips them.

This is not to say you have to perform like you on stage at the west end, but you have to deliver a performance. If you are a teacher you probably do this without realising it during lessons but telling a story seems to me like you are sharing the experience, you are bringing the words to life and igniting the spark of imagination. A great lesson is not just delivered by a teacher, and a great story is not just read. Everyone is involved, reacting, generating ideas and emotions.

Dustbin Dad by Peter Bently and Russel AYTO
Dustbin Dad by Peter Bently and Russel Ayto

I find assemblies to be a great opportunity for storytelling, there is a big space, stage lights to highlight areas of interest, a giant projector screen, microphones. This is great for creating atmosphere and encouraging students to come and join in, use the space, sit up front with you, hold props, do voices, or just watch.

For Dustbin Dad by Peter Bently &Russel AYTo my class made a life size dustbin Dad head and the foods mentioned in the book, volunteers came up and fed him the food as I read and signed (makaton) the foods. We also dpelt out the title standing in line. Great interaction!







  1. Hi Joe,

    I’m a teacher and I’m working on creating a digital storytelling platform for kids. It really sounds like we are on the same page and would love to get your thoughts on what I’m working on. Could you flick me an email so I can get in touch?

    Cheers 🙂
    Leah Hinton

  2. Love these ideas! Bumbi needs a lot of sensory input and reading to her is tough unless a show of some sort is included – puppets, dancing, lights, etc.

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