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Helicopter Starter Training: In London and Kent

Working in Early Years?

Interested in becoming a Helicopter Starter?

On Wednesday 12th February 2014, MakeBelieve Arts are running a day of Helicopter Technique of Storytelling and Story Acting Starter Training in two locations!

Where: Beecroft Garden Primary School, London

or Kemsley Primary Academy, Kent

When: Wednesday 12th February 2014, 9.30am—3.00pm


The Helicopter Technique…

  • Develops confidence, curiosity, concentration and communication skills in all children regardless of ability
  • Increases turn taking, attention span, speaking and listening skills and awareness of written language
  • Demonstrates spectacular and measurable gains in spoken narrative and language development skills even for pupils with SEN or EAL
  • Provides practitioners with evidence of children’s progress in language and communication

Helicopter Starter Training includes an introduction to Storytelling and Story Acting and the practical application.

Helicopter Starter Training is suitable for anyone engaged with working with children between the ages of 18 months-7 years old, including Early Years and Foundation Stage practitioners, speech and language specialists, SENCO’s, Childminders, teaching assistants, playgroup staff and students.

‘The course was perfect, I loved it. I would love to do more training on this project … It has really made me feel that I want to take it back and do this in my setting.’
Teacher at Old Church Nursery School

Full day training: ONLY £35 pp.

Full day training + Resource Pack: £45 pp.

Full day training + Resource Pack + Women Who Cooked Everything Book: £50 pp.


For more information and to book call MakeBelieve Arts on 020 8691 3803

or email


CLICK HERE for more information on the Helcopter Technique.

Helicopter with parents and teachers

On Wednesday 16th September 2013, MakeBelieve Arts Creative Projects Coordinator, Ross Bolwell-Williams and Creative Associates Jen Lunn and Mary Watkins completed their Helicopter Technique Level 2.

They each gave a presentation and completed an essay on their chosen theme associated with the Helicopter Technique.

Take a look at a trailer of Jen’s presentation and her essay below:


The Special People

From the very first time I was able to watch children telling their stories and then performing them around a masking tape stage, I was entranced. These children’s capacity to express themselves through story seemed extraordinary but as I witnessed the same phenomenon in classroom after classroom, I began to understand how innate and simple this technique was for these tiny storytellers and performers.

For me, spending an hour scribing stories and then leading their performances is an hour spent in a magical place of princesses, superheroes or bumble-bees; where anything is possible and the imagination in the room is palpable. For the children – it is instinctive, but for the adults – the teachers and the parents we introduce this technique to – it can be strange, challenging and contrary to their long established habits.

And yet I have watched the most sceptical of teaching assistants grow to love these hours and I have seen them start to listen more, engage more and play more. I believe that this technique, and the philosophy that underpins it can impact deeply on the relationships that exist between adults and the children in their lives.

In Tower Hamlets a group of Bengali mothers were terrified to come to a ‘storytelling’ workshop but, over a cup of tea and a biscuit, shared with me beautifully told stories of their own lives and a few weeks later were telling magical stories that they then watched their children perform. Talking to one of these mothers, a month after the project had ended, she told me how she now carried her ‘story book’ around with her everywhere and how her two children and even her husband now told her stories which they then performed as a family together.

In Kent a teacher explained to me that she was correcting the children’s language when narrating their stories around the stage. It was incredibly important to her that she modelled language well, as this was not happening in the children’s homes. I could see her struggling as I explained the reasons why it was important to honour the children’s words around the stage and suggested that she see their language as a form of poetry; special and beautiful. When I returned the following week she was smiling as she told me how she had suddenly understood what I had meant and had begun to speak the children’s words exactly as written.

Vivian’s vision of the teacher learning from the students is at the heart of the relationship shift encouraged by Helicopter work. It encourages us to reflect on the assumptions we make about children, the opinions and attitudes of our own that we impose on them and the frequency with which we misunderstand what they are trying to express – all of which we do often, believing we know best. Helicopter turns us from authority figures giving answers and controlling children’s expression into avid listeners, ready to learn and able to admit our mistakes. In making that shift we take giant steps towards being the special people who inspire and delight.

“Memories of pretend play are often associated with a special person who encouraged play, told fantastic stories, or modelled play by initiating games, who perhaps had a flamboyant personality that inspired imitation or gave wonderful gifts of puppets and picture books or shared exotic travel adventures – who, above all, showed a trusting, loving acceptance of children and their capacity for playfulness.”

(Singer and Singer 1990)

The Boy Who Dared to be a Princess

On Wednesday 16th September 2013, MakeBelieve Arts Creative Projects Coordinator, Ross Bolwell-Williams and Creative Associates Jen Lunn and Mary Watkins completed their Helicopter Technique Level 2.

They each gave a presentation and completed an essay on their chosen theme associated with the Helicopter Technique.

Take a look at a trailer of Ross’ presentation and his essay below:

The Boy Who Dared to be a Princess

It was week 3 of working with the Moon class in a Tower Hamlets primary school, and the eager reception children came bounding into their classroom, instinctively sitting in a square formation, as if they already saw the masking tape stage which was invisible to everyone else except for them. Looking at the class list from the story book, a pattern was emerging as the majority of the stories were imagined and offered by the girls of the class, and the ingredients of their stories were a starburst of princesses, mums, flowers, castles, dancers and horses..

How could we encourage the boys to offer stories and also to take risks by participating in the girls stories?. As the room slowly started to fill with the chorus of ‘no’ from the boys who I invited to tell a story, a steady yet slow arm rose on the periphery of the invisible stage, and that arm belonged to Jamal.

Yes” said Jamal.

Great, I’ll put a star next to your name.”

The word ‘yes’ it would seem can be contagious as it prompted another two boys to raise their hands. Maybe it seemed safe to follow as someone had already taken that step to go beyond the safety of their seat behind the stage to venture across the threshold into instigating a story. A long journey for what might seem a considerably short distance where centimetres can sometimes seem like miles!

Jamal had decided that he wanted to tell his story in the play area, which this week took the form of a kitchen. At the time this choice of location seemed a very brave one to make as the play area was usually populated by the girls of the class. This felt dangerous yet important, and the boys were quick to follow behind. Jamal was un-phased by the presence of anyone in play area, and sat with his back against the cooker, and me manoeuvring myself around the washing machine (which was full of plastic vegetables) to sit next to him.

There was a princess” said Jamal, “and she liked to jump.”

I quickly scribed and repeated his words back to Jamal.

She like jumping in the water. The end.”

It felt within those 15 words, Jamal had tackled head on the taboos of the classrooms, and looking up from the story, Jamal’s peers watched with curiosity…the type of curiosity which makes you smile and wonder at the same time.

I want to be the water” said Jamal.

A small bit revolutionary ripple felt like it was starting to spread throughout the classroom.

Returning back to the carpet, the stage was laid down (over the earlier imaginary one) and everyone took the front row seat. Today, the stage felt like an arena – not due to the size of the audience, but to the weight of the tide which everyone seemed to be going against today.

Jamal stood and made his way to the sit in front of me. As he walked across the stage it felt like the journey he was making should of been accompanied by a symphony of slowly tapping drums, the sort of drums that anticipate the moment the trapeze artist is about to unfasten their harness and leap onwards to the next swinging bar unaided by nothing but their own bravery. He arrived. The story started…

There was a princess”, and instinctively Kia arose. As the story progressed, Kia leapt in the air and Jamal proudly took his place as the water, tapping the floor with his hands. This was then instinctively imitated by the rest of the class around the stage.

For me, this was the day that the culture of the classroom changed, when someone dared to be something which surprised us all. Bravery comes in many forms, and nowhere does this become clearer, than in the story of a boy playing a princess.