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Classroom Tales - Using Storytelling to Build Emotional, Social and Academic Skills across the Primary Curriculum

  • Jennifer M. Fox Eades
  • ISBN 1 84310 304 4
  • Jessica Kingsley Publishers
  • Reviewed by the Editor of ‘Play for Life’ April 2006

Jennifer M. Fox Eades has an MA in Psychoanalytic Observation and a background in special needs teaching. She currently works as a freelance education advisor and is a member of the editorial board for 5-7 Educator magazine.

This title makes an interesting comparison with Trisha Water’s ‘Therapeutic Storywriting’. Waters covers storywriting as a therapeutic technique and includes a lot more informing theory whereas Fox Eades is concerned with storytelling and only really introduces theory in her last chapter. However this contains an interesting concept – WWW – What Went Well. This is influenced by the work of psychologist Martin Seligman to counteract the Zeigarnik effect (At the end of the day or an event it is what went wrong that is at the front of your consciousness, not what went well). Since ‘Classroom Tales’ is intended to help build emotional, social and academic skills and the emphasis is on the craft of storytelling, there is less danger that it will create confusion among teaching staff providing therapy without adequate training than Water’s book.

‘Classroom Tales ‘ is very easy to read, clearly presented and delivers on most of its promises. ‘Fox Eades shows how Storytelling is a crucial element of children’s education that can enrich the school curriculum and encourage social and thinking skills. The author discusses the different kinds of story that are useful in the classroom context, including traditional stories, fairy tales and sacred stories, and explores the impact of individual and group dynamics on the telling and reception of these stories. She provides a series of sample stories and gives practical tips on adapting these to suit different situations and meet different needs. She also advises on a range of techniques such as using props, allowing ‘reflection’ time and prompting interaction. Sections on collective stories and the child as storyteller explain how children can be inspired to compose their own tales that offer opportunities to practise self-expression and negotiation.’

It does not however ‘provide all the tools and techniques needed to use Storytelling effectively’,especially in the therapeutic area. As with Waters, Fox Eades omits references to important contributors to therapeutic storytelling such as Cattanach, Milton Erickson and Joyce Mills although Nancy Mellon is acknowledged. However the book is particularly good as a source of material from which therapeutic stories may be developed. Also the section on turning real life and school events into stories is valuable. There is a useful list of web sites related to storytelling.

The book is a recommended buy for Teaching/Learning Assistants/Mentors, SENCOs and Teachers in primary schools who are undertaking training in therapeutic play. Experienced Play Therapists are unlikely to benefit sufficiently to justify purchase unless they are urgently in need of plot and characters to construct their therapeutic stories. It is worth their while to think more about the WWW approach and investigate Martin Seligman’s work. Perhaps they should ask their library to obtain a copy or share the cost with colleagues.