Feedback From Schools: Is Speech Bubbles Making A Difference?

Alongside our weekly drama groups, Herts Inclusive Theatre also run commissioned projects. One of these projects is Speech Bubbles, a early intervention drama project focused on improving communication skills in primary school aged children.

 

What is Speech Bubbles?

A white background with black speech bubble outlines with purple text describing the benefits of speech bubbles

Speech Bubbles is a weekly drama program delivered in primary schools by various theatre groups across the UK (including HIT!). By encouraging the fun of storytelling, these sessions aim to improve children’s communication skills in a way that is natural and enjoyable for students.

 

Why is Speech Bubbles needed?

 

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on children’s educational development, including their communication skills.

Speech & Language UK (formerly ICAN) estimate that a shocking 1.9 million children are struggling with talking and understanding, a 20% increase since 2020.

Speech Bubbles aims to use drama and storytelling to redress this shocking statistic. And we think they’ve been incredibly successful: in their 22/23 Teacher report, they found that:

89% of children showed improvements back in the classroom in their learning, speaking and listening.

 

How are Herts Inclusive Theatre involved?

 

HIT deliver the program in schools across the south of Hertfordshire. Our trained drama practitioners (who you might see in our weekly theatre groups) go into primary schools and deliver sessions. Our expertise in inclusivity and accessibility makes us a great partner, as we understand how children’s varying needs might affect their communication abilities.

Alongside the sessions for KS1, HIT delivers free CPD training at your school. This training aims to help staff understand how Speech Bubbles uses drama and storytelling to improve communication, giving teachers and teaching assistants several resources they can implement in their classrooms.

 

What happens at a Speech Bubbles session?

 

A purple background with white cartoon speech bubbles sat in a classroom

A Speech Bubbles session will be held part way through the school day and will typically include around 10 students from Key Stage 1. In a day, HIT will deliver two of these sessions, reaching a total of 20 students. The children who attend are chosen by their teachers or the school’s SENDCO. Children have a natural instinct to play, to tell stories and to have fun – Speech Bubbles sessions are designed to harness this.

A session will last for around an hour. In the time, students will participate in games designed to promote communication. They may spend time working on drama activities that revolve around story, and soon students will be sharing their own stories and acting them out for the group.

Additionally, an evaluation will be held after the session with a teacher and the practitioner from HIT. This ensures that both HIT and the school can understand where progress is being made.

 

How are schools in Hertfordshire responding?

 

A HIT practitioner leading four teachers in an exercise. They are standing in a circle and hold their arms out in front of them.
CPD being delivered by HIT.

 

HIT has been delivering Speech Bubbles over this past academic year in several schools across Hertfordshire. We have been pleased to see that teachers have noticed the difference it has been making in the classroom.

I have noticed a lot of progress from students inside the classroom and beyond… [Child 1] has been engaging more in class and using his voice to talk to adults, he would never speak to us before Speech Bubbles. [Child 2] used to be very quiet and let everyone take control, she is now using her voice more and deciding what she wants to do.

  • Teacher, Coates Way, 2024

In relation to the free CPD training, schools responded incredibly positively.

This was a brilliant session. Gave the teachers a chance to understand what Speech Bubbles is and what it’s about. We can use this [CPD training] in a class setting.

  • Teaching Assistant, Coates Way, 2024

Leaders of sessions have remarked on the clear impact they are having.

The participants grew in confidence across the two terms, showing more comfort in taking creative risks and voicing their ideas and answers as well as an evident increase in enthusiasm towards having their own stories told once they had seen them in action. They have shown increased instances of team-work and/or supporting their peers in various ways.

  • HIT drama practitioner, The Grove Academy, 2024.

 

Children’s Stories

 

Our own practitioners have noticed the difference Speech Bubbles is making in children’s attitudes to communication. From two terms in a Hertfordshire school, these impacts have been noticed by our drama practitioners:

Participant A did not speak at all at the start of the sessions, and now
raises their hand and participates in full (if short) sentences and they have
told two stories.

 

Participant B has a severe lack of confidence and at the start of the
course had a seeming slight mistrust of new adults. Now they clearly
enjoy answering in class and knowing that all their ideas are accepted,
encouraged and celebrated has given them a huge rise in confidence and
joy in being creative without being criticized or told off.

 

Participant C has changed from being very shy to (after being included as
a character in classmates’ stories) showing great enthusiasm for the
elements of class where they get to act in the circle.

 

Participant D found social interaction very difficult at the start of the
sessions which was apparently accompanied by a lack of understanding
of questions and/or finding it amusing to answer in inappropriate ways. At
the end of this term, they have shown a real desire to understand and be
understood and their second story contribution was longer and made
much more sense.

 

Booking for your school

 

We are currently taking bookings for the next academic year. If you would like HIT to deliver Speech Bubbles in your school from September 2024, email kasia@hit-theatre.org.uk for more information, to schedule your free CPD, or to book.

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