Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Early years’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s in a story?

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

What’s in a story? Things that are normally hidden? Things of remarkable beauty? Keys to the future? One of my main occupations at present is writing a book about doing stories  with Early Years children. It’s a subject I’ve thought about a lot about over the years because I’ve done so much of it, not only with children themselves but with their teachers and parents too.  Writing the book has been bringing back to my mind all kinds of little tales. Here are three.

Story One:

This story was reported to me by my storyteller friend, Debbie Guneratne. It’s about an incident that occurred to her some time ago during a period when she was in Australia, working in a hospital for children.

One day, she started telling a little boy in the hospital the story of The Yellow Blob. Debbie had heard this particular tale (it’s one I created) on a storytelling course I’d been running. The little boy was a child who didn’t speak and his attention span was very poor. So Debbie was delighted to see that he kept listening intently as he heard how the Yellow Blob lived in an entirely yellow world until one day when he climbed to the top of a yellow hill and saw a blue lake below.

Suddenly at this point of the story, and much to Debbie’s regret, a nurse turned up to take the little boy for some treatment he was due to receive. Debbie was naturally very sorry he hadn’t been able to stay to hear the end of the story. Come the end of the day, however, Debbie was on her way out of the hospital when she heard a voice calling her name. Turning round, she saw the nurse hand in hand with that same little boy standing at the top of the hospital steps.

‘Debbie, stop,’ the nurse called out. ‘He wants to hear the end of the story.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s In a Blog?

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

Ships 1This week,  a query arrived from a storytelling friend (Hilary, this is you!). Among her storytelling stuff, she’d come across some clipped-together folded and cut papers. What could they be? She remembered they were connected with a story I’d once told her students. Something about a sea-captain? Could I remind her of it?

Now when it comes to blogging, I am a veritable infant. I love writing this blog, I know how to put in my pictures and I know how to post the blog each Saturday. Beyond that, I don’t know very much at all except I do also know how to look up stuff I’ve posted in this blog in the past. So I thought I’d pass on that information to anyone reading this now. If nothing else, it could be a useful reminder that you can use this blog as a kind of archive.

Storyworks Blog References

So. Look at the Search boxes on the top left of the blog. In the box marked Storyworks Blog References, put in a word or perhaps two that relate to a subject you might be interested in. Maybe you want to check up on a story you faintly remember reading here in the past. Maybe you’re interested in finding a new story on a particular theme – apples or ghosts or soul or wild man. If it’s something that’s been in this blog, the title and date of the relevant posting (or several)  will come up on your screen when you’ve entered the word. Press on whichever one you want to check out and hey presto. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Best story ever (for young ones)

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

DSCN5231For any storyteller, it’s a heartening moment when you learn that a story you’ve told has succeeded in engaging a child. It’s even better when the story has become part of a kind of chain. You told it to a group of adults and it’s one of them that passed it on to the child concerned.

This week I had one such moment when I received the following message from Hilary Minns at Warwick University. Hilary has for many years been running a module on Stories and Storytelling for people pursuing Early Childhood studies. The story she refers to is one I’ve told there a number of times.

Hilary’s message:

A little story: one of my students has a group of seven children with special learning needs. Among them is a 6 year old autistic boy who, she says, dislikes stories intensely and who wriggles and squirms around at storytime. But she told him Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle, complete with actions, and he was transfixed. He then asked her to make the characters into Mr Wiggle and Mr Waggle and said they had to change houses. At break time she observed this boy retelling the story to a friend!

  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Wild is wonderful

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Lanzarote frontWild is wonderful. Wild is the unknown, the unexpected, the uninhibited. Wild places, wild laughing, wild dancing: it’s when you can let yourself go, feel different and free and absolutely part of something else. That’s why Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are retains its appeal as a classic of children’s literature. Child or adult, it draws you in to a world where you can feel the freedom.

And that’s why Where the Wild Things Are has been in my planning for the workshop I will be running today for childcare workers in New Romney in Kent. The idea is to explore the basic importance of engaging children in stories and what it takes to bring about that involvement. Stories told and stories read will both be part of the work: in essence they call on similar techniques including, primarily, a will on the part of the teller or reader to impart the joy of the story.

So that’s why one things I’ll probably do is what I’ve sometimes done before in similar situations – namely read Where the Wild Things Are in Welsh. It’s unlikely anyone else present will understand Welsh. For most participants, the experience is bound to feel strange. Some may feel alienated or excluded – and that, of course, is how some children feel when they’re being read to, especially if no attempt is made to engage them or they don’t know much language yet. Others I hope will feel a bit more engaged when sounds or actions become part of the reading or a finger gently draws attention to aspects of the pictures. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Risky Business

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Taking risks is not easy. You push yourself out of your normal groove. Then you see where you’ve got to. Sometimes you like it, sometimes you don’t. But whichever the outcome, hopefully there can be a morsel of learning.

A step on the road

For instance, I’ve never much liked photographing people, certainly not strangers in the street or the park. I feel a bit superstitious about it, like the Masai tribespeople I once encountered on a remote journey in Kenya. They didn’t want their pictures taken: they felt it was robbing them of their spirit. I feel a bit the same, as if taking something from people unawares. Last Sunday, however, I discovered I’d found a way to try it out.

We were sitting in Battersea Park by the river. A constant stream of people went walking by and I became fascinated. I liked the variety of clothes and ways of moving. I liked the rhythms of walking and the regularity of the steps. Suddenly I found myself with my camera raised, pointing at trees the other side of the path. Then I clicked whenever people crossed my camera screen. I liked the fact that it felt anonymous and that, on the whole, I was photographing people from the back. I include a few of the results today: evidence of me taking a risk. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Getting Participation/5

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

It’s one thing to make sounds while you’re telling a story. Relishing them is quite another and it’s something children really respond to – so much so that it’s my tip this week for getting participation.

What happens when a really good sound comes from the storyteller’s mouth – the hoot of an owl for instance – is that it attracts children’s attention. You can almost see their ears prick up. A good sound is different both from the normal level of talk and the rebukes and instructions so often administered to children.

Cow mooing, monkey chattering, tap dripping, wind whooshing – such sounds make all the difference. They make children sit up and pay attention. But that’s not all. Interesting sounds inspire them to copy. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Getting Participation/ 4

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

The storyteller, Beulah Candappa, said it brilliantly: ‘Storytelling is the art of time and silence.’ How right she was. Time is especially important with young children. Making time, taking time, valuing the time that’s taken – all helps with encouraging participation. And in that connection my tip this week is about getting participation through the way you use words.

Parents, teachers, Nursery Nurses and others have often commented to me that when I’m telling a story, it may take twenty minutes, but when they retell it, it takes just three. So what’s the difference? I’m certainly not claiming that all stories should take twenty minutes. What I do say is that, with young children, the story should feel long enough. Long enough for the children to relax and get into it. Long enough for them to feel they’ve inhabited it and been on a journey with it. In this respect, it’s my belief that an enormous difference is made by the words you use and how you use them.

The Naughty Little Mouse:

Yesterday, for instance, I was telling the story of The Naughty Little Mouse. You can find a full version in my book, Stories for Young Children and how to tell them! where it’s also on the accompanying CD). I was originally told this little folktale by a woman from India. In my subsequent retellings, I found I was adapting it more and more for children in the UK.

In The Naughty Little Mouse, the little mouse first manages to inveigle a shop-keeper into giving her a piece of cloth. In a second shop, she gets the cloth made into a hat. In a third, she gets the hat decorated with braid and sparkly sequins. Finally, finding herself in Buckingham Palace, she succeeds in getting to sit on the Queen’s throne for one whole day before, at the end of the story, she goes back home. By the time she arrives, she’s exhausted.

Cloth? Throne? Exhausted? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Getting Participation/ 3

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

It’s obvious: most children like toys. They also like objects that aren’t obviously toys – things that make funny sounds, things that sparkle, things that look new or peculiar, things you can do something with.

So my thoughts for this week are about using objects. Over the last two weeks, I’ve focused on words – how to get children to speak them and how to use your own voice in a way that prompts them to speak. This week is about a technique that enables you to say almost nothing at all – at least not until you’re ready to start your story.

How to use objects:

Here’s how you might proceed: First make sure your audience is gathered together. Then lean forward to open the bag in which you’ve hidden your magic object. (A bag or box is always a good idea.) Now bring out the object (and I’m pre-supposing you’ve chosen it to suit the story you’re going to tell.) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Getting Participation/ 2

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

My current series of postings is about how to get children actively participating in stories. As the basis of today’s tip, I’m focussing on a well-known nursery rhyme. It’s come back to mind because of what’s been going on recently in the outside world. The pot-holes in my road have been overflowing with it. People at London bus-stops have been moaning about it. Friends have asked glumly if it’s ever going to stop. And of course the ‘it’ has been the rain. Here’s the nursery rhyme:

     Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
     In a shower of rain
     He fell in a puddle
     Right up to his middle
     And he never went there again.

Because of the incessant rain – and today’s clear skies in London serve as a reminder of how bad it’s been – this rhyme could be a good one to include in Story-time soon. It may even be an advantage if the rhyme is already familiar to the children. Handled in a different way from usual, it can help you build up your techniques for getting participation from them. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Getting Participation/1

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

‘In the middle…’ That’s what was often said to me by a therapist I used to visit in one difficult phase of my life. ‘I don’t know where to begin,’ I’d say. And that’s how she always replied: ‘How about in the middle?’

The theme of the series:

So in the middle is where I’m starting this new series. The theme is how to get children actively involved in a story, not only listening but joining in. My emphasis will be on Early Years children. But the same idea works with all ages. And there’s an awful lot to say.

1. Let your listeners do the expanding …

For example, take the topic of jewellery. Maybe your is story about highway robbers (I used to tell one of these once.) So there you are, in the middle, describing how the fiendish robbers hold up a carriage at night and order everyone inside to hand out their jewels.

Here’s your opportunity. ‘So that’s what the people started to do,’ you’re saying. ‘They were frightened. They started to take off their jewellery …’ (more…)