So, you’ve put yourself out there and been offered an interview: congratulations!
An Early Years interview in the UK will require all the usual considerations; deciding what to wear, planning the journey, and researching the company. You will need to practice questions and answers, but another element that is often incorporated is spending some time working within the classrooms. This is a very important part of the interview process; the setting is looking to see whether you are enthusiastic about spending time with the children and to gauge your ability to deliver excellent early education.
Even if you have not been asked to prepare an activity, it is a good idea to take something along with you. While preparing something around play is a great idea, another simple and effective activities you can prepare is telling a story. Here are some tips for preparing a storytelling session:
Firstly, choose a story that you like! You need to be able to demonstrate enthusiasm about a story and this is much easier to do with one that you like and feel confident reading and talking about.
Next, consider how you could adapt the story to suit different age groups and begin to think about what themes there are in the story that children can be encouraged to explore, and the key words in the text that you can draw children’s attention to, to expand their vocabulary.
You might consider bringing props to support the experience; soft toys, or items that represent those found in the story can be given to the children to hold or to explore, adding interest and interaction to the storytelling session.
When you are taken into a room in order to carry out your activity you need to bear in mind that the children haven't met you before and therefore don’t know who you are. Your first task in this section of the interview will be to put the children at ease, so you should explain who you are and ask the children their names. If they are shy they may not answer but you can then direct the question at other staff so that you are able to use children’s names throughout the rest of your session.
You can then build children’s interest and curiosity by telling them that you have brought something with you that you would like to share with them today before introducing your story.
You should introduce your story by holding the book up and introducing the book properly by saying its title and the author and illustrators names. For older children you can talk about what an author does and what an illustrator does, and then you should hold the book up so that children can see the pictures and words as you read.
Reading a story should never be a one-way process, there needs to be plenty of interaction with the children and opportunities for them to participate. As you begin to read the story you should encourage the children to participate by asking them questions like "What do you think happens next?" or "What can you see in the picture here?"
Many children’s books have repetitive phrases or lines so you can encourage the children to say those lines with you as you read; remember, children should be doing as much as you are, if not more!
Reading expressively is important when telling young children a story so you should vary the tone of your voice as you read, using an excited tone to build curiosity and excitement as the story progresses. You can also change your voice to match different characters in the story; perhaps using a deep voice for large or scary characters. To add further expression to the story you can use sound effects like “whoosh” or “crrrreaak” or animal noises.
You should also consider how non-verbal communication can support your story-telling, using plenty of facial expression as you read can help children to understand the emotions that are being portrayed in the story; frowning when something sad is happening and widening your eyes when something interesting is going on.
As you bring your story to a close it is important to show that you know that this is not the end of children’s learning. Here you can ask the children questions about the story, perhaps which character they liked best or draw out some of the important themes and relate it to their own lives.
You can then finish this portion of your interview by setting the children off on a task related to the story and saying thank you to both the children and the other staff.