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Year 2 case study: 'Tobias and the Angel'

Pupils from the Alton School in London worked with 'Tobias and the Angel' by the Workshop of Verrocchio.

Listen to a new version of the story of Tobias and the Angel by Year 2 pupils from the Alton School and read how their teacher saw reluctant learners develop a love of storytelling.

Storytelling: 'Tobias and the Angel'

A new version of 'Tobias and the Angel'
A trek through snow-capped mountains and across the river Tigris – 5 mins


Year 2 pupils at the Alton School retell the story of 'Tobias and the Angel', as part of the Out of Art into Storytelling project

Boy 1: It all happened one afternoon when there was an old man called Tobit and he had been working for a long time, so he decided to have a sleep under a cherry tree. As soon as he drifted off to sleep…

Boy 2: …a bird began to peck his eyes. He brushed it off but it was too late, Tobit was blind.  I don't know if the bird thought it was a fruit or a cherry, but poor Tobit was blind. He staggered his way home.

Boy 1: And as soon as he went home, his wife was desperately sad, but he remembered he had a friend that owed him money, so he sent Tobias to go to the local market.

Both: If a man cannot see, he cannot work. If he cannot work, he cannot get any money.  If he cannot get any money, he cannot get any food. If he cannot get any food, he would soon starve.

Boy 2: So Tobit sent him down to a local market, where he asked people but everyone said no. So he sat in a corner and thought who would help him. Then an angel… then a man with blonde hair that was very tall said, "I will be your guide."

Boy 1: And the next day they set off to Media, and they climbed over snow-peaked mountains, where eagles swooped down to catch a lamb for their tea. And they went through deep, dark woods, where Hero the dog tried to catch rabbits for their lunch.

Boy 2: So finally they reached the mighty river Tigris. Raphael found it easy to cross and then he walked … he was going across… Tobias was going across, then a mighty fish was biting into his leg, and he said, 'Ow, ow, a mighty fish is biting into my leg, ow.' 

Both: "Use the staff, Tobias, use the staff."

Boy 1: And he did, and as soon as he crossed the river, he threw the staff down and said, "Why didn't you help me, why? A mighty fish is biting into my leg."

Boy 2: "What's, that? That's not a big fish." He looked down and it was only half the size of his hand.  But he didn’t know it was only a small fish biting into his leg. At least they had something to eat.

Boy 1: As soon as Tobias drifted off to sleep, Tobit canned the entrails and the eyes of the fish into a metal box and said, "We will need this later." 

Boy 2: They set off to the town of Media and they found it easy to go there. And as soon as they were walking to Tobit's friends, Tobias saw the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. It was love at first sight. 

Boy 1: Within a few weeks, Tobias wooed and wedded Sarah. It all went well until Sarah told him a terrible secret. She said, "A demon is in love with me, and he swore to kill any man that I marry, and me too." And already the town had six fresh graves.

Boy 2: So he went to Raphael and said, "Help me, someone is going to marry my friend."
So he said, "Go to her house and leave the rest to me."

Boy 1: So the next day he went to her house and the demon was barging in.  [Boy growls].

Boy 2: Raphael threw the entrails onto the fire and he turned into a puff on the breeze.
Boy 1: Early next morning, they set off to Ninevah but this time when they went to the river Tigris, they could afford the boat. As soon as they were through it… they crossed it, they went through deep, dark woods, where Hero tried to catch rabbits for their tea. And they climbed over snow-peaked mountains, where eagles swooped down to catch a lamb for their tea.

Boy 2: When they got home, Tobit was waiting. Raphael told Tobias to mash the eyes and smear them on your father’s eyes, so he did. Then he blinked twice and there he saw an angel flying over mountains.

Boy 1: Tobit thought about everything that had happened. He chuckled. 

Both: Tobit could see. Four leaf clover, our story is over.

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Tony Philcox, Deputy Head Teacher:

"The project had a fantastic impact on my own and my colleagues' practice. Initially, a colleague and I planned a sequence of work for Year 2 and Year 6 primarily using Verrocchio's 'Tobias and the Angel' as our stimulus."

A love of storytelling

"At first I was sceptical as to whether such a complex story would be accessible for infant children. I’m glad to say that I was wrong to be doubtful; the project developed a love of storytelling among our children. Being able to speak their ideas aloud has been instrumental in improving our children's writing and the use of the fantastic paintings has inspired children to use art to write their own stories.

"Since the project began, we have used the paintings to stimulate whole school cross-curricular projects, conducted staff INSET, where all our teaching staff learned the story of 'Tobias and the Angel' and created a storytelling garden to further inspire the children's storytelling."

Playground storytelling

"However, throughout this project the incident that will always stay with me concerns two Year 2 boys who had at times struggled to be motivated during literacy lessons. The two boys immediately loved the whole process of storytelling and amazed me with how quickly they were able to retell the story of Tobias.

"I remember finishing the lesson in a particularly good mood because of how well it had gone. Yet I was dismayed five minutes later to find both my boys spending their lunchtime in the head teacher's office. My dismay quickly turned to joy as I found the boys retelling a wonderful rendition of the story. The boys can now regularly be found spending their lunchtimes telling stories to adults and other children from the school."