Review: Really random story bags
The following post is a review of a product from Early Years Resources. The product was sent to me for free and I was asked to review.
Speaking and story telling have always been an interest of mine in teaching. I worked in a school where vocabulary building was the main push and this year it was reading.
I have tried various different approaches to story telling with Talk4Writing being a very successful strategy. However, that takes weeks to teach and over a year the children learn a limited amount of stories and few children innovate their stories.
When I was given the chance to review these Really useful story bags I jumped at the chance. I've used something similar in the past but they were laminated pictures which didn't have much longevity when used in the provision areas.
The kit comes with three bags.
A 'where' bag which contains 10 scenes such as a castle, a desert island, a park or a far away moon.
A 'who' bag which contains 6 random characters. Mine contained an emperor, a ghost, a cowgirl, a pirate, a knight and a queen.
And a 'what' bag which contained 15 'literally random' objects such as a stick of broccoli, a hammer, a footprint etc.
I initially set up small groups during free flow with the children, inviting children to join in when they wanted to so we ended up with a mixed ability group each time. We introduced rules, 'take one where card, one red character and two objects,' and talked about story elements such as how a story might start and end.
For the first few days we had very simple stories such as:
'Once upon a time there was a queen who had a hammer and a dinosaur and they lived in the park. The end.'
'In a land far away a knight lived with his sabre tooth tiger on an island and ate flowers. Then he died. '
- Lovely, but not breaking any records here for imaginative story telling. But the children were anxious and being put on the spot is a difficult thing when they're unused to the activity.
As the week progressed, I stepped back from the activity and allowed other children to be the teachers. I asked those new teachers to ensure the children followed the rules we had set and to make sure they model a story to the other children themselves. The story telling picked up quite well and some children had to be encouraged to 'wrap their story up' by the end.
By the end of the week we had set up the activity in the reading nook. On Friday afternoon I left the resources on the little windowsil there for the children o play with by themselves. One of my boys spent almost 2 hours (seriously) in the area picking different characters and telling stories to all of the children who would listen. This was particularly interesting because this little boy lacks a lot of confidence to approach children within the provision.
Random objects mean the children have to really think how to form links between the different elements of a story.
A range of objects means that some children will develop vocabulary they are not used to, e.g. 'emperor.'
Children who would usually lack confidence to add a narrative to roleplay will respond well to the structure (or 'rules) of this activity.
The look and feel of the bags makes it exciting, almost as if they are playing a magic bag activity.
In terms of small world pieces, they're not the best nor the worst quality. They are strong enough to withstand playing by the children and come through unscathed however the faces aren't as detailed as you would get from scheibler characters.
The yellow 'where' bag is a tight fit so the cards got a little dog eared even after a week. I removed them by the end of the week and placed them in a basket. I'll probably double laminate them this week.
I am very grateful to have tried the Really Random story bags. They have opened up a lot more story telling in my room which I haven't heard a lot of this year and helped to increase the language used around roleplay and storytelling.
I would probably have not bought these bags from the website. I think I would have thought that they seem quite expensive but if you consider you're getting 16 small world items, 10 printed scenes, 3 high quality bags and, perhaps most importantly, you're saving a lot of hours resourcing.