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Helicopter Technique

helicopter+stories+logoThe Helicopter Approach of Storytelling and Story Acting is based on the work of Vivian Gussin Paley, Patron to MakeBelieve Arts. MakeBelieve Arts has been pioneering this work in the UK since its conception in 2002.

In its simplest form children tell their stories which are written down verbatim, word for word. The group then gathers around a taped out stage and the stories are acted out. –http://www.makebelievearts.co.uk/helicopter/

Alongside the simplicity of this approach is an ethos that is child-centred, creating a culture of curiosity and wonder at the dexterity of children’s imaginings during both the telling and the acting out of their stories.

“The classroom has all the elements of theatre, and the observant, self-examining teacher will not need a drama critic to uncover character and plot, and meaning. We are, all of us, the actors trying to find the meaning of the scenes in which we find ourselves. The scripts are not yet fully written, so we must listen with curiosity and great care to the main characters who are, of course, the children.” — Vivian Gussin Paley

 The Helicopter Approach has strong links with the EYFS and …

  • Develops confidence, curiosity, concentration and communication skills in all children regardless of ability.
  • Increases turn taking, attention span and speaking and listening skills.
  • Demonstrates spectacular and measurable gains in spoken narrative and language development skills even for pupils with SEN or EAL.
  • Enables pupils to see their stories acted out, and gain reinforcement of the meanings of the word through their total engagement with the process.
  • Provides practitioners with evidence of children’s progress in language and communication.
  • Keeps a class of 30 children attentive, because no-one knows what will happen next and what the next story will contain.

Helicopter Approach Centres of Excellence

These centres of excellence are ambassadors of the approach, host observational visits from teachers from other schools and actively use the Helicopter Story Blog to blog stories, anecdotes or videos of the Helicopter Approach in action.

A year and a half ago the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funded a robust evaluation of the Helicopter Approach and The Open University evaluated the approach. One of the suggestions and outcomes of the evaluation was to award settings as Centres of Excellence in the approach.

These awards are given to those select Early Years settings that deliver regular Helicopter sessions and are able to share the benefits of the approach with neighbouring schools.

They are ambassadors of the approach, host observational visits from teachers from other schools and actively use the Helicopter Story blog to blog stories, anecdotes or videos of the Helicopter Technique in action.

Chisenhale Primary School, Tower Hamlets became the first Centre of Excellence in June 2013 and Kemsley Primary Academy, Kent has recently become the second.

helicopter award photoMakeBelieve Arts has been working with Vicky Franks, EYFS Leader at Kemsley Primary Academy, since October 2012 and from the very beginning Vicky saw the potential for her class to develop their speech and language skills in an interesting and stimulating way.

Vicky very quickly took to the app and wanted to take it into all classes up to year one. Vicky talked to the other teachers about it and they became very interested in the stories from the nursery.

Then, in February of this year, there was the opportunity for those teachers to attend a Helicopter starter training session. Kemsley Primary Academy have been using the approach ever since the initial training.

The launch of the Kemsley Primary Academy Helicopter Approach Centre of Excellence was fantastic, the school had used the launch as an opportunity to invite parents into the nursery and show them a Helicopter story session with the children.

newsAfter the demonstration, parents, staff and governors moved down to the hall where Vicky Franks had prepared a presentation of stories using photos and film. She had also set up a display of the children’s stories which everyone enjoyed reading. The local press from the Kent messenger came along to cover the launch.
Isla Hill, Creative Director, then spoke about the work MakeBelieve Arts has done with Kemsley Primary Academy, working with not only the staff and children, but also with the parents in our Helicopter at Home project.

Helicopter at Home is a programme that grew out of The Family Learning Project, which was funded by The Royal Opera House Bridge and took place in Spring 2013, in Kent.

The project trained and encouraged parents to use the Helicopter Approach, with their children, at home.

After the success of the project, Helicopter at Home has become a core element of the Helicopter Approach. During the series of workshops parents listen to their children’s stories, write them down and then act them out.