Who Is In A Story

December 15, 2021
Jodie Davidson
Jodie Long

Who is in a Story?

Creative Practitioner: Jodie Davidson

Creative Practice(s): Visual Artist

School: Camboon Primary School

Teacher: Jodie Long

Year Group: 5/6


Literacy Year 5

Listening and speaking interactions, comprehension strategies, creating texts, oral presentation, purpose and audience, editing

Literacy Year 6

Listening and speaking interactions, purpose, audience and structures, text cohesion, oral presentation, language devices, editing, creating texts, use of software

General Capabilities

Critical and creative thinking

Personal and social capability


Science Year 5

• Biological Sciences – Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment (adaptation).

• Science Enquiry Skills - Questioning and predicting, evaluating.

• Science as a Human Endeavour - Nature and development of science, use and influence of science.

Science Year 6

• Biological Sciences – The growth and survival of living things are affected by the physical conditions of their environment.

• Science Enquiry Skills - Questioning and predicting, evaluating, communicating.

• Science as a Human Endeavour - Nature and development of science, use and influence of science.


The class varies between 29 and 31 year 5 and 6 students with a number experiencing difficulties being engaged and staying on task, particularly within the year 5 cohort. Through personal goal setting and reflection, our hope was to improve this. One student is dyslexic however there are others who also struggle with literacy, which is a strong focus within the school. Activities needed to be designed to reduce apprehension with the unfamiliar, to accommodate autism, shutting down caused by anxiety, generalised anxiety, group anxiety, a hearing-impaired student, cognitive weakness and difficulties due to trauma. The focus was on specific student outcomes and particularly improvements in personal capabilities.


The initial intention for the term project was to create collaborative stories themed around biological science. These were able to be presented in the form of a book, graphic novel, comic book, newsletter, newspaper, magazine or iMovie with students presenting reasons to support their choice of text type. Reflecting on types of stories and why they are important we looked at books by local authors, illustrators, artists, researchers and discussed how each of these were able to tell a story, scaffolding both the story research and creation of the text. The problem that slowly became obvious was that although student engagement increased, particularly in sessions that involved a movement element, the class wasn’t utilising and transferring the information they were building and therefore would start again each session at step one.

Team games were being used for the production of story ideas, sentence structures and introduction of unfamiliar words. Relays and running races involved a large sheet of paper and listing the highest number of creatures that could be found around the school along with any dangers they may encounter. Competitions were arranged between groups as to who could come up with the most descriptive words or ideas. These ideas became cut up sentences that prompted short skits that explored story telling with an introduction, a problem and a solution.  The activities resulted in positive collaboration, an unawareness of how much writing they were actually doing and utilising areas outside of the classroom. Improved concentration and involvement became evident in particular areas of the school; the undercover area, beneath the trees near the fort and in the bush space to the east of the school grounds. Each space inspired both the opportunity to explore the local environment and incorporate our cross curricular biological science link and also removed the distractions of desks, pencil cases and visual imagery that was present within the four walls of the classroom. These outdoor spaces became the setting for their stories. The problem that remained was, rather than building on their story each week using the research and information gathered, each student would start from the beginning again. With each session came a new story, a new beginning, new characters and another problem to solve.

Through weekly class and individual reflection, we understood that they were able to recall what they had undertaken, believed they were improving and were able to determine what had been done well and what needed improvement. They weren't, however, making the connections. Based on this observation, it was decided that the writing element would be removed entirely, replaced with seeds, nuts, rocks, screwdrivers, hammers, boxes, screws and nails. Rather than writing, acting and telling their stories, they began to make them.

Students drew their own animal character which was glued to a rock, pre-painted with a colour that corresponded to one of the creative habits of mind. The idea behind this was that the character would have to use the chosen habit to solve a problem. Working in groups, they had to consider their story ideas and how their individual characters would interact. A collection of boxes, natural materials and tools provided the opportunity for groups to build their setting or, in biological science terms, their habitat. Without the use of tape or glue the groups had to problem solve how to connect the elements of their setting using wire, string and nails.

“Usually, we write it or copy from the board. But in Creative Schools we do it in a different way. The different way is building. We are learning to do it ourselves. So you can learn more things. So in the future we can do it yourself and not depend on someone else.” - Student
“She lets us do things how we want to do them. She does something different each week. She doesn’t keep it simple. Every week is different and a bit hard.” - Student

Groups began to collaborate and communicate effectively. They worked with classmates they wouldn’t usually choose to. They became curious. How would their habitat need to change to accommodate their various animals? They were imaginative. They demonstrated discipline in setting and reflecting on goals. What was each person responsible for so that they all had a job to do? They showed persistence in their use of unfamiliar tools and objects, assessing their building and determining how it could be made better. They began to connect the story elements but most importantly, as classmates. Every child was engaged.

“We have been more active. We laugh more often. We are making more friends. We are mixing with year 5 and year 6.”
- Student


Sometimes it is difficult to engage impact simply through observation. The way in which students interacted began to improve as did their behaviour. Through student reflection we were able to gauge how the students themselves felt about the process and skills they were developing.  

“Creative Schools is good. We get to use different things and play and do lots of fun stuff. We get to build and draw and we repeat stuff so that we get better at doing it.” - Student
“I’m learning teamwork because we aren’t doing our own work, we are working in groups so we have to decide together. I’m learning to be inquisitive. I’m taking risks and moving forward more.” - Student

Their final part of the project was the presentation of their stories. They all chose to work on iPads. Some used iMovie while others used more familiar software. Most importantly the choice was theirs. It provided them with agency. It was their project. Was their interpretation of what they thought was required the same as ours? Absolutely not. But they did interpret. They made decisions based on their experience and thinking rather than regurgitating what was in our minds.

“I’ve learnt how to be collaborative and I’m being creative again. I’ve got big things to think about. Like stories and habitats. We have to think in a new way like we can’t with glue and tape we have to think of doing things a different way.” - Student
“I’ve loved Creative Schools. It has been a bit frustrating as the kids get into the swing of it. Maybe we scaffold them too much in everything. We do lots of scaffolding with their writing trying to get them to give their opinion. It is difficult because they don’t have many experiences to draw on. They need more to develop more richness in the storytelling before they can sit down and write about it. Many of the students don’t have the experience of the content. Working with ESL students where the content has no reference is difficult. We have had to backdraft to make things in the physical environment for example making the animals and creating habits. It’s taken all term for the kids to relax and take a risk. They are slowly opening up. Just giving them time is important. I’m going to collect stuff and let them (the students) create. Just to let them experience. I can see that it is working well with this group. Every single kid is engaged. When they talk, they talk about the project. I loved that there were kids talking to kids that they don’t usually work with. I’ve watched our autistic boy asking questions to kids in the class that he doesn’t usually talk to.” - Teacher