Review: Science Through Stories

science through stories

This wonderful review appeared in the fantastic Montessori International Spring 2016 edition. Many thanks to them.

Science Through Stories: Teaching Primary Science with Storytelling by Chris Smith and Jules Pottle – Reviewed by Sue Briggs

This is another magical title in ‘Storytelling Schools’ series, this time using stories as springboards for primary science projects. Chris Smith, the founding director of Storytelling Schools co-authors this title with Jules Pottle, who is an experienced primary science co-ordinator and specialist science teacher (and also a keen actor and director).

Together they have collected a range of fascinating stories – a mix of traditional tales, poetry and real life histories – to be used to launch biology, chemistry and physics topics for primary children. Each story is carefully adapted and retold to provide a fictional backdrop to give context to scientific themes.

The stories are grouped in topics and graded in difficulty, giving teachers easy access to the level of interest and skill of their group.

Biology themes include habitats, ‘Mummy, Can I Have a Penguin?’, caring for the environment; a traditional tale ‘The Drop of Honey’ and ‘The Birds and the Forest Fire’ and the life story of Edward Jenner for health and germs.

Chemistry stories include ‘The Children of the Water God’ for the water cycle, ‘The Trojan Horse’ for properties of materials, and Mary Anning’s story for fossils and geology.

Physics themes include ‘The Giant and the Turnip’ for Forces, the beguiling ‘The Bat who learned to Click’  for sound, echolocation and adaptation through evolution, and the story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission for space travel, orbits, gravity and the moon.

Montessori teachers used to working with an interconnected curriculum will see immediately how these stories would enhance activities and offer a route into scientific exploration for those children more comfortable with a literacy approach.

Ways to work with each story to inspire imagination, additional scientific facts, additional reading and links to other curriculum areas are included after each story. Amplified source notes and a comprehensive index make this a tremendously useful and effective resource for busy teachers.

There is a detailed reminder of the authors’ favourite and recommended way of telling and improvising stories together, ‘Hear Map Step and Speak’ (HMSS), which neatly incorporates different learning styles and helps children remember the process. Most stories have repeated sequences and although devising actions for some of the more tricky scientific processes would be challenging this is undoubtedly an effective mechanism to capture children’s interest and ensure learning is understood, embedded and fun.

I’ll leave the last words to the fabulous Pie Corbett: ‘Without science we are lost. Without story we are trapped alone in the darkness of ourselves. For too long, these companions have travelled on different tracks. This book takes one positive step forwards to bringing them together as travelling companions.’

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Review: Science through Stories

Science through Stories

This review appeared in Storylines, and was written by Liz Berg. Many thanks!

I took this book with me when I babysat my grandchildren in Scotland, their half term is earlier than ours down here. I wanted to find out what children of the relevant ages thought about hearing these stories and if they could work out what science they were supposed to be learning.

Well, I was surprised. Not only did they love the stories and were able to retell them days after hearing but they also picked up on the science part. Job done.

This book has a wealth of material for non- storytelling and storytelling teachers alike. If you have never told before they take you through the process step by step giving you tips and exercises to do with the class. There are ways to tell, ways to remember, mind maps, creative writing, drama, art, PSHE as well as the science it was written for. The stories are themed and there is often an alternative one if you don’t care for the first one but still need something. Traditional tales are married with new. Though the framework is science this is more a topic workbook that can be useful in many other areas.

Tips abound and the stories remain. So much so that the children loved retelling them to their parents. An excellent resource for the Primary teacher.

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Review: Science Through Stories

Science through Stories

Science Through Stories: Teaching Primary Science with Storytelling by Jules Pottle and Chris Smith PhD reviewed in Facts & Fiction no. 96 by Neil Ruckman and Jennie Reed. Neil is an educationalist and storyteller and Jennie is assistant headteacher and Science coordinator at Underhill School and Children’s Centre. Many thanks to them for their hard work! The following is an edited extract: to read the full review, follow the link at the foot of the page.

cover of Science Through Stories

Sitting down to draw our thoughts together on this great resource book, I re-read the last Facts & Fiction and came across this from Martin Murrell’s letter, ‘storytelling is used by all good teachers of all subjects – and always will be.’ Spot on for this book.

The book is aimed at primary level (although I could imagine some of the topics could be used in year 7 at secondary schools and by special needs providers) and covers the three science disciplines. 24 topics are provided and there is at least one story for each topic. From a teacher’s point of view the use of storytelling helps make sense of scientific concepts without oversimplifying them. In particular we felt it will make science appeal to boys and girls equally by encouraging teachers to think outside the box when teaching science.

A particularly good example of this is the Chemistry chapter about the Uses of Materials with The Fairy Godmother’s Day Off as the story (a comic alternative Cinderella story). The comedy of the story and the allusion to a well-known story make it very appealing. Having strong female characters in the story will engage girls who are often less confident scientists than boys. The activities suggested are very hands on – a treasure hunt to find materials and investigations to test the strength of materials. These will really capture the children’s imaginations and enable them to achieve the learning objectives regardless of their ability level. The activities can easily be adapted or extended.

As a storyteller, I was impressed with the range of stories. They include folk tales, real life stories (eg Edward Jenner and the smallpox vaccine), mythology, fantasy, poetry and Jack stories. The stories are often funny and allowed to remain brutal when appropriate.

There are two clear reasons to consider purchasing this book, particularly if you tell stories in schools as many of us do. Firstly you will have some great stories at your disposal. Secondly, it provides a fantastic model and guide for integrating stories into specific areas of the curriculum. The approach taken can be applied to any subject and indeed links with other subjects are suggested. I am already thinking about how to use The Pedlar’s Dream for History, Geography, RE and I am sure there is a numeracy link in there somewhere…

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Review: Science Through Stories

cover of Science Through Stories

This review was written by Anne Goldsworthy, primary science expert, consultant and teacher. Find out more about Anne Goldsworthy here. Many thanks, Anne, for writing us this review.

Science Through Stories: Teaching Primary Science with Storytelling by Chris Smith and Jules Pottle

What a lovely idea- bringing story-telling into primary science!

These days, literacy and numeracy seem to rule the primary school timetable and curriculum. In many schools these subjects can become a bit of dull chore. And if science gets a look-in at all, it is usually for at most, one rushed afternoon per week. It is therefore very good to find something that combines the exciting and motivating story-telling approach to literacy with science. It’s a great way to make story-writing a somewhat more joyful experience and to get science to move up the agenda in your school.

This book is full of delightful stories with a science theme which come from different genres. Some stories are well known such as the Giant Turnip with its link to forces; some have twists to a familiar story such as Jack and the Giant’s Peach linked to plant life cycles and some have been specially devised by the authors to bring out science themes. One of these is The East and the West, a creation fable devised to help children learn about the way that a turning Earth gives us night and day. There are also great stories related to factual scientific events such as the tale of Mary Anning and her fossil collection. What all the stories share in common is that they would be a sure fire hit with children. As you read them, you can hear yourself telling them out loud to children. You can sense how readily the children would take to re-telling the stories for themselves and to go on to develop them further for themselves. So a big thumbs-up for the stories.

As with all compendiums such as this, you will need to select or adapt the stories to match your school’s science curriculum and your children’s level. There is nothing to stop you looking at compasses whilst doing magnets (The Magic Stone) or going into parallel circuits (Lighthouse Keeper’s Son) but neither of those science ideas are part of the new primary science curriculum for England.

There is also a page with each story suggesting possible linked science activities. In the same way, the activities are often useful and interesting but don’t always have a direct link to the statements in the curriculum. For example, the simplest story in the Physics section – suitable for those in years 1 & 2, is the Giant Turnip with its obvious links to pulls and forces. Sadly there is no work on forces in KS1 in the new curriculum. Sh – don’t tell – but there is nothing to stop you doing the story with that age group. You just won’t get to tick off NC statements as you do it.

The science activities are not the central point of this book and they are there to help bolster up the science in the stories. You would need to add to them to cover important areas such as finding out children’s ideas at the start of a unit of work so children can recognise what they’ve learnt. You would also need to develop your own activities to do with Working Scientifically so you can develop it beyond the basic fair test, as laid out in the new curriculum.

But use the approach, dip into this treasure chest and even develop your own stories to match your current science ideas. The children will thank you for it.

Buy the book here…

More about Storytelling Schools here…

More about Anne Goldsworthy here…

Review: Science Through Stories

Science through Stories

This review of Science Through Stories appears in the November issue of Primary Teacher Update, and was written by Karen Faux. Find a link to this highly informative journal at the foot of the page, or visit their facebook page here.

As the introduction by Chris Smith outlines, this book explores the world of science through story. Some of the stories act as a springboard into scientific investigation or communicate information. Others are about great scientists and their discoveries – stories that every child should know.

The mix of traditional tales, historical stories and narratives written specially for this book have all been tested in the classroom by teachers. They cover the main science topics taught in English primary schools and they are ranked in order of difficulty, rather than year group.

With every story there is guidance on how to maximise the story-telling approach, to develop communication skills, social skills and topic knowledge all at the same time. The authors propose a ‘neat’ four-step process to help pupils remember and re-tell stories involving – hear, map, step, speak. It is fast and effective, say the authors, because it mixes various learning models in one clearly defined and easily learned process.

A fantastic resource, well worth the investment, that links to English as well as science teaching.

Buy the book here…

Visit the Primary Teacher Update website here…

More about Storytelling Schools here…