Year 3 and 4 case study: 'River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants'

Pupils from Halstow Primary School, London changed from reluctant writers to expert storytellers, inspired by 'River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants' by Aelbert Cuyp and 'Perseus turning Phineas and his Followers to Stone' by Luca Giordano.

Watch a pupil's storytelling performance and find out how this project has revolutionised teaching practice.

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Tom Gray, team leader, Year 3 and 4:

"I was soon to find out that this project would fundamentally change my teaching practice and have an incredible effect on the achievements of children, not only within my class, but across the Year 3 and 4 team and beyond."

Zombies not welcome

Detail from Aelbert Cuyp: 'River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants', about 1658-60

"Instead of a retelling, I decided the children should create their own class story. This filled me with dread due to the previous memories of stories created by different children in different classes, usually featuring aliens or zombies or, more likely, alien zombies!"

"To my amazement, no aliens or zombies appeared in their stories and they were superb pieces of writing. This, I feel, was due to the fact that we had spent much time discussing the painting, dramatising the scene and its various narrative possibilities and basically bringing the painting to life."

Expert storytellers

"Spending time talking about and analysing the painting, playing vocal story games and story mapping had an amazing impact on the children's writing. The stories were like never before. It was an amazing day and I enjoyed marking every book!"

"The stories flowed and I sensed a realisation from some of my reluctant writers that they could, indeed, be expert storytellers."

Retelling in restaurants

"When parents come and tell you that their children have caused other adults to make incredibly positive comments about them because they are hearing them retelling these stories in restaurants and on trains, then the only outcome can be a winning one!"

"I will never teach a narrative unit again without storytelling and story mapping being key ingredients within the process."

Detail from Aelbert Cuyp: 'River Landscape with Horseman and Peasants', about 1658-60
 
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