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Year 1 case study: The adventures of Perseus

Pupils from Halstow Primary School took inspiration from Luca Giordano's 'Perseus turning Phineas and his Followers to Stone'.

Listen to a pupil retelling the story in their own words and read about the amazing effect on their vocabulary.

Storytelling: The Story of Perseus

A kind fisherman helps the king's daughter escape: a tall tale from a pupil at Halstow Primary School – 2 mins
A kind fisherman helps the king's daughter escape: a tall tale from a pupil at Halstow Primary School – 2 mins


A pupil from Halstow Primary School reads a piece of original writing created for the Out of Art into Storytelling project

Halstow Primary School pupil:

Long ago in Greece, there lived a malicious and jealous king called Acrisius. He had one daughter, called Danaë. She was an amazingly beautiful girl. Acrisius didn't want anyone to marry Danaë, so in the dead of night Acrisius ordered his best blacksmith to build a great, great chamber of bronze.

For months he laboured in secret, building a chamber the size of a big bedroom. It had a small window in the roof and a hole in the door, through which food could be passed. When it was finished, Acrisius locked Danaë and her old nanny inside. 

So it was that the years ran by, and Danaë grew into a teenager. When she was 18, the great god Zeus saw Danaë through the hole in the roof. Danaë woke up and was amazed to see droplets of golden light falling from the sky. She stood underneath the shower of gold and felt a strike of Zeus' power pass through her.

The next day Danaë gave birth to Perseus. She managed to keep the secret for months with the help of her nanny. But one unfortunate day, Acrisius was walking in the courtyard and he heard a baby laughing.

Acrisius unlocked the chamber and Danaë, her nanny and young Perseus got out, blinking like owls. Acrisius ordered the poor nanny to be executed. Before her blood had run dry, a large chest had been made, and Danaë and Perseus were bundled inside, the lid nailed down and it was thrown into the sea. 

But the chest was tugged by powers stronger than a king and it drifted towards the island of Seriphus. Now Dictys, a fisherman, would have never been rich but he was a kind man. One day Dictys was hauling in his net. But he had to call the other fisherman, for there was something trapped. 

It was not a dolphin as they had expected, but a huge chest. Before they had the chance to force it open, it moved of its own accord. Out stepped a beautiful young woman and her toddler – Danaë and Perseus.

Dictys took Danaë and Perseus into his humble home. Danaë did not think once of the miserable palace she had lived in many years ago. The years went by, and the king Polydectes fell in love with Danaë, almost if he could not help himself."

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Year 1 and 2 teacher Ross Silcock:

"I'm Literacy Coordinator for Halstow Primary School in Greenwich and I quickly realised that art can be used to stimulate writing for children of all ages.

"I knew the subject of 'Perseus turning Phineas and his Followers to Stone' would appeal to the children: heroes, monsters and decapitation!"

Extending vocabulary

"At the Gallery, the children were fascinated by the painting and immediately I could see how it stimulated and extended their vocabulary.

"I planned a two-week unit of work with activities aimed at generating vocabulary, story mapping, oral storytelling and then moving on to sentence-level work and a 'big writing' session in which the children would retell the story.

"At the end of the two weeks I was amazed at the children's writing: varied sentence openers including adverbs and sequencing connectives, similes and a broader use of punctuation. I knew then that I would use another painting to inspire their writing."