Below are the answers to the frequently asked questions by users. If you have any questions that have not been answered here, then please contact us.
1.   What is the Oracy to Writing Process?
2.    Why does the Process particularly help EAL and SEN children?
3.    What are the age groups for the Key Stages?

4.    How do I implement the Process in my school?

5.    How do I obtain advice if I need help with implementing the Process?
6.    Do you provide The Oracy to Writing Process to counties outside the UK?
7.    Can I implement the Oracy to Writing Process without training?
8.   I uploaded a story yesterday, but I cannot locate it in the Users Story Library?
9.   Why have just one storyteller?
10. Why are there no pictures to see or any music to hear during the story?
11.  Why are the stories filmed in close-up only?
12. Do you use cue cards?

13. How does the storyteller remember the story in his head?

1. What is the Oracy to Writing Process?

The Process has been created and devised by Phil, for KS1 and KS2, to help schools and teachers utilise oral stories as a learning tool to increase children’s writing levels.

The Oracy to Writing Process is a learning, and teaching package for children and teachers in KS1 and KS2. The Process begins with a visual oral story watched together to stimulate the image making faculties of the children. The Process contains detailed oracy and writing lessons and exercises designed to fit the classroom and the literacy lesson. The Process can be implemented in 10-day units throughout the year, providing an opportunity to build upon writing progress across the whole school.

For more information please see the Oracy to Writing and the What We Offer sections on this website.

2. Why does the Process particularly help EAL and SEN children?

‘In classrooms with a high differential of achievement, every child begins Oracy work on the same level, that of expert beginner.’

This Process has been designed to meet the needs of all children, boys and girls at all levels of ability. EAL and SEN children benefit particularly from the immersion in the oral text and vast opportunity for oracy. Oral stories are delivered not just with words but also with universally understood sounds and actions. Many children develop nimble and ingenious ways to surmount their lack of word knowledge. It is through repetition and immersion in a ‘soundscape’ that children begin to comprehend meaning through sound. Within the oral story, structure and other narrative features subsist. By passive\active immersion in the text followed by the exercises and practice of retelling, children subsume storytelling language and conventions including structure and punctuation.

‘Mert is an EAL child who had limited story language. He has really benefited from the speaking and listening aspect of the project and been able to transfer lots of skills directly to his written work.’ Liza- Primary School Teacher [At the end of the two weeks process Mert’s literacy levels had risen from 1a to 2b.]

‘Matthew has dyslexic traits as well as sight difficulties. He loved the whole process and was much more willing to try and write a longer piece of writing’ Parkwood Primary School Teacher [At the end of the two weeks process Matthew’s literacy levels had risen from 1a to 2c.]

3. What are the age groups for the Key Stages?

KS1: Are children between the ages of 5 to 7.

KS2: Are children between the ages of 7 to 11.

4. How do I implement the Process in my school?

There are several ways to implement the process in your school, see the ‘What we Offer’ section for more information.

5. How do I obtain advice if I need help with implementing the Process?

Please contact us if you have any question or need advice about implementing the Oracy to Process. We are very willing to help you.

6. Do you provide The Oracy to Writing Process to counties outside the UK?

Yes. Contact us and we can discuss your needs and develop a bespoke Oracy to Writing, training and mentoring project for you.

You can also subscribe to The Story Emporium website and start implementing the Process straight away.

7. Can I implement the Oracy to Writing Process without training?

Yes. Although many schools have found the training offered and the Whole School Package, with the hands on expert help and advice provided by Phil as invaluable, in inspiring the children and teachers, when embedding the Process into their schools. However the website provides everything needed to implement the Process.

  • A practical and easy to follow Oracy to Writing Guide Book for implementing the Process.
  • 240 easy to follow oracy and writing lesson plans, for both KS1 and KS2.
  • 90 stories created, adapted and beautifully told by Phil McDermott.

8. I uploaded a story yesterday, but I cannot locate it in the Users Story Library?

  1. This could be because we are still reviewing your story before it’s approved. We review all stories to ensure that the content is appropriate for both children and adults before it is made available on our website.  Check the library again in few days time. If it is still not on the site then contact us.
  1. Your story may not be on the site because after reviewing its content, we may have concluded that it was inappropriate, especially as children have access to our site. We will always endeavour to contact you, and give you the opportunity to you to make amendments to your story, so that it can be included onto the site.  Please note that we have final say as to whether a story can be added to our website.

Questions Asked About Phil’s Stories:

9. Why have just one storyteller?

The main reason that I decided to tell all 90 stories myself on The Story Emporium website, is one of consistency. The aim is to have children in reception seeing these stories and watching new ones every time they progress through the school so that by the time their primary school career ends in year six they will have seen all 90. I will be familiar to them as a storyteller and they will be comfortable with me. The essential factor in this however, is that the storyteller is not important; it is the story that must take precedence. Let me explain.

Imagine a comfortable environment where a storyteller is about to begin. Of course all eyes are focused on the teller. The teller begins to speak. Then something ancient and wonderful takes place. After about 90 seconds the audience stop watching the teller and they begin to see the story. Their imaginations spark into life and they begin to create pictures, images as they follow the story. The storyteller begins to disappear, to fade and only the words remain. The words feed the story from some distance away but the main focus is on the story, which has become a series of images. These images are being created there and then by the audience. In that room, at that time, never to be repeated in quite the same way the story comes to life.

And what are these images that make up this story? After all, the story is the same. The storyteller is not giving every single person in the room a different story. But every person in the room is seeing a slightly different story because they are creating different pictures. These pictures are all dependent on their vast and varied experiences of life. The story mentions a wood. To one it is the cold silent copse outside of Stirling, to another it is the noisy vibrant wood bursting with life that summer in Dorset years ago, and to another it is that dripping, steaming intriguing jungle creeping up on the banana field outside granny’s house above the bay.

In that room, at that time many stories are being told although the storyteller is using one linear set of words. This is a partnership between teller and audience, a shared communication. It requires company and yet is enjoyed in the privacy of ones own mind. It is the very essence of what it is to be human and is older than the invention of fire. It recalls our shared beginnings emerging onto the savannah, clinging to each other through fear in an extremely dangerous world and yet constantly gazing at the horizon for explanation. It is the tool we used to explain the world to our young and as a means of survival and it brought comfort to all through the horrors of the night.

I admit I’m getting a touch fantastical but I sincerely believe that some of the stories we still use today have their origins in the beginning of our long struggle to be successful survivors on this earth, and if some of the anthropologists are to be believed it was decidedly touch and go for a long while.

Using one storyteller for the first series was a deliberate decision giving the watchers a consistency through the years. This is a consistency within their own year group and linking them together with the other year groups through which they will pass. It also binds the collection of 90 stories on the web site together for a particular purpose, as a teaching tool for the classroom with its emphasis on speaking and listening. There is also a continuity of style, which as an introduction to the idea of a ‘live’ storyteller on the whiteboard is important for teachers in its flexibility of purpose.

10. Why are there no pictures to see or any music to hear during the story?

When music is used in film or on T.V. or even during radio drama its purpose is to enhance the mood and the action. It is specifically targeted to manipulate an audience’s senses. It instructs an audience as to how they should be feeling and leads them along preordained pathways. An oral story is not so impertinent. When a watcher sees an oral story they are invited to come along with the story. They are not forced into feeling or seeing anything in particular; rather they are observing the action, which they themselves are creating. They have not been manipulated through music to feel or react in a certain way. They are the authors of the story, fed by the storyteller’s words, but painting the images themselves.

The use of pictures in an oral story similarly curtails the use of the imaginative muscle. At first sight and perhaps to the minds of early twentieth century educators, 24 hour watching of T.V. should produce the most highly educated, creative and wise genii ever to have walked the planet. And yet the opposite seems to be true. We can’t all cook like gourmets, write like Dickens or spring into action like heroes. We can’t even gossip properly. This is because we cannot interact with the moving image. We have no control over it. The sets are painted for us, the actors speak the lines for us, and in dramatic scenes it rains for us, the lighting changes the mood for us-everything is done for us. We don’t have to do anything. We sit slack jawed consuming it all without ever being full, without ever being satisfied.

With an oral story, presented simply without the distraction of pictures or the manipulation of music we have to work harder than we can ever appreciate. The storyteller’s first intake of breath starts the imaginative process working immediately. We create mountains, cities and characters with more detail and resonance than the teller could ever describe. Three words can take us to the bottom of the ocean or have us hurtling through the air miles above the earth. We can see all the inhabitants of a German village from the mud on their feet to the sores on their faces. All this is because, guided by the teller, we are recreating the story every time we hear it. It is our imaginations that paint the pictures, not a Hollywood stylist or an Acton T.V. executive. We are not slumped on the couch mindless. We are truly engaged. We are interacting with the story. We are having a conversation with the story. We are creating the story.

The story has become bespoke. Never mind how many people are in the room with us, the story we see is different to the story they see. Indeed it is different every time we hear it!

So. We have no pictures. We have no music. If we did it would be an insult to your intelligence. More importantly it would be a curb to your imagination. We have kept it simple. We believe that children are more creative than any of the major publishers and unbelievably a very small minority of educators would accept. We have been proved absolutely correct in this.

(For an insight in how the adult world at large and the media in particular truly view children, switch on any T.V. with access to satellite. Select the’ Kids Channels’, close your eyes and scroll down through the channels. Listen. Later generations will interpret your experience as torture.)

11. Why are the stories filmed in close-up only?

Throughout a typical week of live storytelling I am lucky enough to tell in many different environments. Sometimes in front of four hundred or more I get to move around the room. I can use the whole of my body to tell a story. The complexity and different speeds of movement can enhance an understanding of a story. The use of hands, arms, postures and different positions in the room can bring new perspectives and directions to a tale. A shared communication with a live constantly moving audience undulating in harmony with the story and a moving living breathing storyteller. In these situations a story can change in the telling a great deal because it begins to feed off the audience. The live audience can begin to change the story because of its collective mood or enhanced sensitivity.

In the classroom setting I am usually seated with the freedom to get up if the story dictates. The same rules apply though. Continuous eye contact, but with a smaller audience and that means the contact can be more personal and a relationship can be built with an audience both as separate individuals and as a group.

I had to tell the story looking straight into the lens of the camera. The focus of my story was that tiny light at the far end of the pipe which gave the impression that I was continually regaining consciousness after a traumatic accident. No one else existed in the world.

In that school hall in Barnard Castle where the tales were filmed I began to tell stories to myself. I began to truly explore the landscapes and characters within my own stories. I travelled around familiar places and encountered people for the first time that I had made years ago. I cannot wait to go back there again.

The result is that in the finished product no matter how many people are in the room watching the stories they all know that I am telling to them and them alone. The experience of watching the stories in a classroom, on a T.V. or a computer is one of a personal one on one telling and it is a better experience for that. So filming in close-up means that I achieve what is impossible in a live telling-continuous, inclusive, personal eye contact with everyone, all of the time.

12. Do you use cue cards?

Good gracious No! Heavens to Betsy! The thought of it! I shouldn’t really be getting so worked up by what is actually a very fair question; it’s just that it has never actually occurred to me. When speaking to camera, cue cards or a camera mounted rolling cue system is regularly used. This is usually for the news or a live current affairs presentation, or even for studio presenters in say children’s T.V. It means that the presenter has no control over what he/she is saying and that every thing is managed by people off camera. It is scripted, written down and planned. I have hundreds of stories and not one of them is actually written down. They can’t be. If they were written down they would be set. They would be inflexible, unable to move. They would then lose all the living breathing attributes of an oral story. A story is different every single time it is told. The words and their sequence is never the same. Often whole scenes are left out and sometimes complete movements are inserted, there and then, live, on the spot. Minor characters are elevated to stardom and others completely forgotten about. There are many reasons for this, the mood of the audience, the size of the space, the forgetfulness of the teller, the constrictions of time. But an oral story is so robust and flexible it not only remains undamaged by this but also thrives and grows because of the unpredictability. Also the teller must have total ownership of the story and no part of it must be left in the hands of outside forces. The unpredictability must be the teller’s alone. The teller must be able to switch direction in the story on a whim or at the behest of the audience. When the story is set out with cue cards this becomes impossible.

13. How does the storyteller remember the story in his head?

The telling of a story relies very much on how that story is discovered in the first place. There are three main ways in which I add a story to my story bag; firstly there are the stories I make myself, second are the stories that are told to me and lastly there are the stories I read. My made stories occur in movement, sometimes moving around the kitchen on light duties or walking through landscapes, or sometimes rushing from one place to another. The told stories can be very old, ones my Dad told me, or very new from children or other storytellers. The stories I read are of greatest value when the reading is rushed, skimming through a printed traditional tale or skipping the pages of a short children’s story. The ways I access the three categories however are the same. I do not see the words, I see the pictures.

Seeing the pictures gives me an incomplete sequence of events. It is a narrative line through the story. There is a beginning, middle and an end, no matter how misty and lightly drawn the images are. It is not like following a path through the story because a path is far too clearly defined. Think of it more like a series of lonely posts continuing through an open field into the distance. The posts are events in the story, which must be told in order for it to have integrity in the structure. Without this structural integrity the story would collapse blancmange-like into a soggy mess. I know that in my journey through the tale all I have to is touch these posts and I’ll be o.k.

Think of say Little Red Riding Hood. The posts in that story would be; little girl with a basket and a mission, the deep dark wood, first meeting of the wolf, then switch to the wolf’s point of view, mayhem in the cottage, and the scene in the bedroom.

Once I can touch all of these posts I can stray off the path as much as I like. I can drop the woodcutter entirely or I can make him, or her, have a different function. I can explore the wood in more detail, perhaps making it a character all to itself. I can look at the wolf’s backstory or make granny the real villain.

This improvisation, especially in front of an audience and often dictated by them, gives an immense amount of freedom to the teller. After the first telling the story might only vaguely resemble its origin.

Once the story has survived its first live telling it is easy to remember. All I have to do is play the images in my mind WHILE telling the story. Because the story was born due to flexibility, it is still live and can still be changed.

I remember the stories, not because I remember the words but because I remember the posts and the images. Every telling is different. All of the above make mine the best job in the world.