The Power of Stories

‘ If you want your children to be intelligent, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be even more intelligent, tell them more fairy tales.’ Albert Einstein.

Our beautifully told stories will give hours of fun and enjoyment to children and adults alike.

Stories are the easiest, enjoyable and most powerful way to increase children’s learning skills, in speaking, reading, writing and creativity. Our stories are a great educational tool benefiting all children from the reluctant writer to the high achiever. The stories combined with the children’s evolving powers of comprehension, analysis, discussion and imagination, play an instrumental role in developing their literacy skills.

In schools and in the home stories will:

  • Challenge and expand children’s imagination.
  • Increase their confidence and enthusiasm for independent reading and writing.
  • Increase confidence and ability in speaking and listening in all settings.
  • Increase understanding of the language and image making involved in storytelling and writing.
  • Increase children’s ability to use language to explore their own experiences and imaginary worlds.
  • Increase children’s understanding of plot, character and story structure.
  • Increase their skills, understanding and use of grammar and punctuation.
  • Increase and enrich their vocabulary, pronunciation and word recognition.
  • Increase their confidence in public speaking.
  • Increase their confidence in their own creative skills.
  • Lead to their personal growth and development.
  • Bind groups and classes together.
  • Create a unique sharing experience.
  • Give a creative boost to learning across the school and in the home.

Storytelling has always been part of the human experience. Stories are universal, crossing boundaries of language, culture and age. Oral stories have always been a fun enjoyable and entertaining way to teach children our history, traditions, culture, morality and other complex ideas. Our stories help define who we are. Our sense of identity is forged by the stories we tell ourselves, and they can also help build and preserve a group’s sense of community.

The importance of stories in the overall development of young children is well-documented. Children’s ability to grasp the concept of narrative appears at a very young age and stories provide a key means to understanding the world around them as well as other people and themselves. Stories mirrors human thought. All evidence from neurology and psychology leads to the conclusion that humans think in narrative structures. Concepts conveyed in story form – more than ideas explained with logic and analysis – imprint themselves naturally into human minds.

There is also strong evidence to suggest that young children who are read to and told stories from a young age have considerable advantages at school, not only in the development of literacy skills, but also in the development of social skills, such as empathising and being able to relate to others. Conversely, children who are not exposed to stories at an early age tend to do less well later, both in terms of literacy and in terms of integrating with others at school.

The more stories that children know at an early age, the more likely that they will be successful as life long learners. But stories are not just for children, they are a communal activity and if parents watch stories with children the positive effect is magnified.

The Oracy to Writing Process

Create a school full of enthusiastic writers!

Stories are a  powerful educational tool for schools. The Oracy to writing is process has already been implemented in many schools in the UK and Hong Kong, benefiting thousands of children at all levels of ability from the recultant writer to the high achiever.

The Oracy to Writing Process (O2W) is an innovative teaching method, developed by Phil McDermott, that successfully uses oral stories to improve children’s literacy and Oracy. The Process consists of three units of work for each year group, ages 5 to 11. Each unit lasts 10 days, one hour per day. The units can be taught consecutively, once a term, or as a free standing course of work.

Each Unit comprises a number of video oral tales accompanied by easy to follow writing and oracy lesson plans. Schools can access all the videos and lesson plans from The Story Emporium website.

The O2W process begins with an oral story, watched on the website, to stimulate the image making faculties of the children. The Process contains detailed lessons and exercises designed to fit the classroom and the literacy lesson. The O2W process helps to establish in a practical and user-friendly way the link between Oracy and literacy. It is designed to encourage a fun and productive atmosphere that is also managed and contained. All of the exercises in the Process are fundamentally infused with drama and Oracy. Through the Process children and teachers examine, investigate and process all aspects of the narrative using Oracy with increasing progression in the uniquely structured lessons. Using Oracy for purpose children explore oral techniques, language patterns, narrative structures, characterisation, settings, analytical and critical methods and functions, leading to writing that displays originality, creativity and authorship.

Phil McDermott has over 18 years experience of teaching drama, telling stories and training teachers in primary schools. As a result of this practical experience, he has developed and refined the journey from Oracy to Writing into a 10 day Process for teachers and children. The Process can be implemented in 10 day units throughout the year, providing an opportunity to build upon writing progress across the school throughout the year.


The Oracy to Writing Process has already been successfully implemented in many schools in the country and abroad. Thousands of primary school children have already benefited from the Process. In February 2009 Phil conducted a pilot in twenty-two Hackney Schools, with children from year 3/4, for the Hackney Learning Trust. After the two weeks Process 96% of the children assessed, showed significant or major improvement in their writing levels, achieving increases of 1 to 3 sub levels. This was the case for children at all levels of ability. (Data provided by The Learning Trust in Hackney)

Future Proof

Each stage of the Process has been designed to enable children, teachers and schools to meet the national literacy standards and objectives. The Process gives teachers and children an enjoyable and engaging programme for teaching and learning and enables children to achieve higher standards in Oracy and literacy. But the Process is also future proof and will endure through changing government policies, because at the heart of the Process is the fact that Oracy is fundamental to learning.

Benefits children at all levels of ability

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 children at all levels of ability. 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 oral text followed by the exercises and practice of retelling, children subsume storytelling language and conventions including structure and punctuation.

‘This is a fantastic programme that should be rolled out nationally. All the children were totally absorbed in the work from the highest achievers to students on their first English words. It’s great to have a programme that truly involves all the children.’North Hackney Teacher.

‘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.]

The Process is a journey of discovery through strange and familiar lands. It is stimulated by the images conjured up while watching an oral story. By using those images children begin to embark on an adventure of exploration and investigation. Through a series of shared Oracy exercises undertaken as a class, children wrestle with and rip the story apart. They discover how and why it works, and how it affects them on an emotional and cerebral level. Through ritual, talk partners and group discussions they play with its structure, manipulate its characters and alter its settings and plots. They begin to recognise motive and cause in characterisation and to make comparisons and judgements. They see how setting and environment can affect the movement of the story and the people in it. They begin to grasp the opportunity for reflective engagement in the universe.

In discovering a commonality in stories they realise that they too are story makers, and always have been. They are strengthened, emboldened and given confidence by the Process. Fundamental to the Process is the element of progression in training, knowledge and expertise. Having been through the Process, they tackle writing with assurance and eagerly anticipate a resumption of Oracy lessons as an opportunity to practice newly acquired skills.

The significant success of the Process in substantially raising the levels of writing among children is due to children and teachers discovering that the seed of a story is the image, and the fundamental tool for writing is the voice. Subsisting in any story is the possibility of another. The unique images sparked by the story are the raw material that will lead to writing.

O2W for the Key Stages – Years 1 to 6

Key Stage One

This unique package has been especially devised by Phil for years 1 and 2. The Process includes significant creative play, art and drama aspects with enhanced home/school linkage. It also produces a writing product. The Process is spread out over the school year into three distinct 10 day units for each Year group. Each unit is designed to tackle a different aspect of the journey from oracy to writing.

The fundamental basis of the units in KS1 is recognition of narrative through immersion in the oral text together with ‘language play’.

Key Stage two Package

This package devised for years 3 to 6 has been designed so that it can be run as a stand-alone 10 days process or spread out over the school year into three distinct 10 days units.
Each year group enjoys individually designed oral and writing lessons infused with progression though the term and through the year.

The fundamental basis for units in KS2 is the deeper investigation, examination and exploration of the story through oracy.

Through the Process children in KS1 and KS2 will learn:

  • The use of private voice for purpose
  • The discovery, development, enrichment and practice of the public voice
  • The encouragement and support of the assured voice
  • Reflective and analytical talk
  • Self-assessing oracy.
  • Critical listening
  • Listening and image making as a stimulus for oracy
  • Children becoming keen eager and enthusiastic oracists

Children’s writing after the Process:

  • Will display authorship and be owned by the writer
  • Will show writing patterns stimulated by oral language patterns
  • It will be creative and original.
  • It will show knowledge and awareness of a readership.
  • Children became eager and enthusiastic to writers.

The O2W Process helps practitioners in their professional development

  • It enables teachers to have a keener understanding and awareness of children’s voice.
  • It enables them to have a more secure classroom management practice and greater confidence when ceding the vocal space to children.
  • It can enables a more refreshed and revitalised practice when linking elements of the course to all other aspects of the curriculum using key questions and mapping.
  • It enables increased opportunities to share practice with other staff.

Through the Oracy to Writing Process the children gain confidence in their story-making and storytelling ability. The Process enables children to translate the images created by their own imagination and experiences into oral and written stories.

The raising of confidence in any child is achieved through joy in action. With storytelling the approval of the work is seen through the eyes of one’s peers. It is immediate and insistent. Children begin to realise that sewn within any oral tale is the seed of a written story.

The Process creates a hunger and excitement for stories, from listening and watching, to telling, to writing and then to reading stories. Personal development in oracy through the Process is not just for the literacy lesson; it becomes a life skill.

It is the personal growth, social development, increase in confidence and well being that strengthened oracy engenders that leads a child towards a genuine desire and love for life-long learning.

We offer the following ways to help you implement Phil’s Oracy to Writing Process in your school.

  • KS1 and KS2 Training
  • Whole School Oracy to Writing: Training, Mentoring and Support Package
  • ‘The Authorship Club’: Training and Mentoring Project.
  • ‘Found Objects’- Boys’ Writing Project
  • Annual Subscription to The Story Emporium website.
  • Live storytelling.
  • 240 Oracy to Writing lesson plans to accompany our stories available  FREE to all website subscribers.
  • Guidebook detailing how to implement the Oracy to Writing Process in your school.