Talk with Tales for Children (TWiTCH) teaches practitioners how to use story time as a daily opportunity for complex language interactions between children and adults. It also supports the use of teacher/child talk through language games to develop children’s thinking and reasoning skills and gives them the language to express complicated thoughts and ideas.
Through TWiTCH training, practitioners learn how to use a clearly structured intervention that builds on familiar EY practice (Storytime and small group work) to improve the quality and quantity of adult-child interactions.
During TWiTCH, practitioners will learn practical strategies for helping all children in the classroom to build language and reasoning skills. The strategies can be easily woven into an existing Storytime slot. Each strategy is designed to engage and maintain the interest of the child, making language and literacy-learning a fun and natural part of their day. The programme is based on 9 story cycles, with each cycle lasting for 3 weeks.
- Week 1 – focuses on developing knowledge and understanding of the story through dialogic reading prompts.
- Week 2 – focus is on language reasoning games that are based on the story and is intended to develop children’s language to express complex ideas.
- Week 3: focus on children who may need additional input – set up continuous provision, retelling of the story etc. to consolidate learning and develop language.
The TWiTCH programme uses a staged approach:
- One whole-staff in house training session (3 hours) introduces the practices involved in dialogic pedagogy and how to implement choice-based language games that will be delivered outside of the story time in structured small groups.
- A coaching visit to the setting to support development, practice knowledge and skills of all staff.
- A second whole-staff in house training session (3 hours) trains staff in the TWiTCH programme, introduces the 3‑week story cycle and links the language games taught previously with story books recommended by the programme.
- A second coaching visit during which a TWiTCH Champion is identified and supported.
- A third coaching visit supports with implementation and consolidation of skills.
- 3 online coaching inputs interspersed between the coaching visits to provide on-going support.
- 3 online TWiTCH Champion network meetings.
The TWiTCH programme is delivered by the Sheffield Institute of Education, part of Sheffield Hallam University.
There are spaces for 25 nursery settings in South and West Yorkshire for a range of setting types. Priority may be given to settings categorised by an Ofsted grade below Good or are located within areas of high social deprivation.
To take part in the project, nurseries need to:
- offer funded places for 3‑to- 4- year-olds in a setting (child minders are not eligible);
- be located within one of the following Local Authorities: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield, Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds, Kirklees and Wakefield;
- have at least three practitioners who are working with the 3- to 4‑year-old preschool cohort;
- have onsite access to a computer with an internet connection, webcam and microphone to take part in online live workshops;
- have access to a device which can record videos of staff-pupil interactions and upload onto a secure online access point for the video review sessions;
- able to host 2x 3‑hour in house staff training sessions with our TWiTCH Coach;
- provide time for staff working at the setting to support the delivery and evaluation requirements of the programme;
- after the initial training, nominate a member of staff (holding a minimum of a level 3 Early Years qualification) to act as the TWiTCH Champion to take part in the training and support of other colleagues with the delivery/evaluation requirements of the programme.
Settings currently taking part in the Early Years Professional Development programme are excluded from taking part in this study due to the overlapping elements of the programme with TWiTCH.
To find out more go directly to Sheffield Hallam University’s website at Talk With Tales for Children (TWiTCH) | Sheffield Hallam University (shu.ac.uk)
Schools/settings can register their interest to take part in this project below, it is recommended you access and review the TWiTCH Information Sheet for Early Years Settings before you register your interest.
If you have any further questions about the project, please email the TWiTCH Team at Sheffield University via there TWITCH inbox at
As part of the Department for Education’s Early Years Recovery Programme, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is working with Stronger Practice Hubs across England to fund Early Years settings’ access to evidence-informed programmes and study the programme’s influence on practice and children’s outcomes. This initiative aims to support education recovery following the pandemic, whilst also developing our understanding of effective professional development in the early years.
The EEF is interested in funding an evaluation of the intervention as the evidence basis for dialogic reading is positive, but we are yet to find a whole-class PD programme that encourages these approaches having impact on pupils’ language outcomes.
The EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit highlights several practices are effective in supporting language development such as targeted reading aloud and book discussion, explicitly extending pupils’ vocabulary.
A recent meta-analysis demonstrated that how you read influences the number of words learnt. Interactive or Dialogic reading styles that use practices such as open-ended questioning, pointing, repetition, providing explanations or definitions, exchanging text or picture related talk during reading had greater impact than shared book reading alone (Flack et al 2018). Additionally, the TWiTCH approach encourages repeat reading over a 3‑week cycle. The same meta-analysis found robust learning of the meaning of words requires repeat exposure and repeat reading appears most effective for 3 – 5‑year-olds.
Dialogic pedagogy as defined by Robin Alexander encourages teaching that promotes higher order thinking. Higher-order questions are used to intentionally provoke thoughtful answers and initiate dialogue. Dialogic teaching has been found to be impactful on KS2 children’s academic attainment in an EEF funded RCT (Jay et al, 2017).
An independent evaluation of the programme will be carried out by Durham University.
TWiTCH is being independently evaluated as a Pilot. This means that is will be delivered to a small number of settings to develop and refine the approach, and test its feasibility. Initial, indicative data will be collected to assess its potential to raise attainment.
For evidence of promise, the evaluation will look at perceptions of change in practice through interviews and surveys, and understand change at practitioner and child-level through analysis of audio observations.
The evaluation report will be published in Autumn 2024.