Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Primary’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Looking up

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

P1070076Here’s a story I remember with laughter and delight every time I think about Laugharne, the place where the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas lived and wrote and also where the novelist and story-writer Richard Hughes had his writing-room high up in the castle walls. This story was created orally by a small group of 11-year old children.

The story:

Merlin was watching over the wall of his castle. Beside him was his favourite seagull. As he looked down, Merlin saw a family of parents and children, obviously tourists, walking along the foreshore of the estuary below. All were munching – crisps from crisp bags, chocolate from wrappers. Then as they passed, one by one they dropped their plastic wrappers onto the ground. Merlin was horrified. When the family had gone by, he sent his favourite seagull down onto the shore to bring him something else that was messing it up. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Magic eyes

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

P1000058Cast up onto the pebbles this week on one of my Pembrokeshire beaches were lots and lots of dead crabs – big ones, small ones, ferocious-looking ones, ones that made me go Oooh. I took quite a few photos with my new camera, bought because the zoom on the old one had broken, and the sight of the crabs through the camera lens reminded me of a story I’ve always loved telling to Primary-age children. I first came across it many years ago in Twenty Tellable Tales by the excellent American storyteller, Margaret Read MacDonald. In this collection, the stories are set out almost like poems making it easy to see those chant-like parts that are often repeated and where an audience can join in.

It’s the removable eyes in this story that got me. Children also love them, especially when you make spectacle eyes with your hands, moving them out in front of you and then back again as you do crab’s magic chant. Such eyes, Margaret Read MacDonald points out in her notes on the story, are usually associated with Native American Indian culture. However, it’s from South America that this tale appears to have come. Here it is more or less as I tell it except that this is in shortened form. The elaborations and exaggerations I leave to you.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Time of contrasts

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

EightIt’s a time of contrasts. On the one hand is the thought of coming days of peace and enjoyment. On the other, my mind is abuzz, thinking not only of things that have to be done but also about people who are in trouble, people fleeing bombardment, who haven’t got a home to be at home in, who haven’t got enough to eat, who haven’t got any money to buy things  – people like the woman I met on the street the other day. When she asked for some money for something to eat, I asked what she was hoping to get. ‘Anything,’ she said. ‘You know you can get a packet of crisps for 20p. Sometimes I get four packets. They make me feel full for the whole day.’

Then I had to start thinking about this week’s posting. What could I possibly write about? What my mind settled on – needs must! – is something merry and participative for children, namely the Christmas chant I created some years ago. It’s based on Going On A Bear Hunt, the traditional chant I’m sure you all know. Just change the words a bit and this is how my Christmas chant turns out: 

Going to See Father Christmas: (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 ~ Haunting

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Encouraged by comments on last week’s blog – that the poem was haunting and so, so sad – I reached down my box-file labelled Songs, Poems, Sayings. In it, I found much I’d forgotten and much I felt I’d like to share – rhymes for Early Years children, chants and sayings to introduce storytelling sessions and also several other haunting poems. Here’s one of them: Green Candles by Humbert Wolfe.

P1080300Green Candles:

‘There’s someone at the door,’ said gold candlestick;
Let her in, let her in quick!’
‘There is a small hand groping at the handle:
Why don’t you turn it?’ asked green candle.

‘Don’t go, don’t go,’ said the Hepplewhite chair,
lest you find a strange lady there.’
‘Yes, stay where you are,’ whispered the white wall,
there is nobody there at all.’

‘I know her little foot,’ grey carpet said:
Who but I should know her light tread?’
‘She shall come in,’ answered the open door,
‘and not,’ said the room, ‘go out any more.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Which one is the heroine?

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

Outside basketA good story lasts and a good story travels. In the course of this week, I received a request from one of this blog’s readers. Steph who works in South London and whom I met at my Waterstones event a few weeks ago was asking for suggestions. She needs good hero/heroine stories for when she’ll be telling stories in a South London Primary school during Black History Month in October.

A Nigerian folk-story known as The Swallowing Drum was one suggestion that quickly popped up in my mind. The story was first introduced to me by my fellow storyteller, Karen Tovell. It’s brilliant for involving older-age, Key Stage Two primary pupils in participation, debate and story-creating. Adults in workshops, too, can get an enormous amount from it. Besides, there’s a fascinating tale to be told about how this story travelled from a telling of it I did in London to a large class of 11-12 year old children in one of South Africa’s black township schools. And, for me at any rate, the story raises an interesting question:  Who is the heroine of this story - the mother or the daughter?

But all that is too much for one blog. So this week I’m simply retelling the story, reserving the rest for next week and perhaps  the week after that.  

The Swallowing Drum:

Once in a town called Ikom, there lived a girl called Ibanang. While her father went off to work on his land each day, her mother would sweep their hut, fetch water from the river and prepare their food. Then, when the father came home at mid-day, Ibanang’s mother would go off to work in the field while Ibanang’s father did all kinds of other jobs about their home and taught Ibanang how to weave.

Ibanang’s parents always had one important rule for Ibanang. They’d tell her she mustn’t go into the nearby forest – not on her own or without any grown-ups. Sometimes, families would go into the forest to collect wild honey or mushrooms. But Ibanang knew she mustn’t ever go there alone. Her friends’ parents said the same thing to them: Do not go into the forest on your own. But when the children were playing, they all  used to wonder what could be in the forest that was such a problem. Wild animals? A witch? What could it be? (more…)

Storytelling Starters: Birdland

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

NZbirdcompressI’m visiting booming bittern territory this weekend. Will I get to hear one? If I’m lucky. The booming bittern has been one of the most threatened bird species in the UK. Evidently, it’s now making a bit of a comeback. It belongs in the heron family, lurks in reed beds and is extremely secretive. It’s the male that makes the extraordinary noise. When I heard one in the same area a few years ago, it really did BOOM.

And then there’s the blackbirds. So intense and tuneful is their singing, morning and evening, here in our part of South London, it fills the air around us. It is pure joy. 

But  for this week’s blog, I promised a story about how birds came to live in trees. This story was originally told to me by a woman from Thailand in an Adult Education class in storytelling I was running at the time.  Apologising profusely for her poor English, she then told the story to great effect. I’ve retold it in this blog once before, back in 2011. It bears repeating. I think it works well with Primary-age children.


Storytelling Starters ~ Big Ears

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Sea tray and handThe Rajah with Enormous Ears is, deservedly, an extremely well-known story. One thing that intrigues me about it is the different versions that exist in other cultures. Did it travel to those places from India? Or did other peoples in other lands come up with the same idea?

In ancient Greece:

Perhaps the oldest version of the Enormous Ears theme occurs as part of the story of King Midas from ancient Greece. Here, Midas is punished with a pair of ass’s ears when he disagrees with the verdict in a famous musical contest. For a long time, he manages to conceal these big ears under a Phrygian cap. But his barber who is the only person aware of the secret cannot bear keeping it to himself. So the barber digs a hole in the river bank and whispers the secret into the hole. ‘King Midas has ass’s ears.’ Then the barber fills up the hole not knowing that, soon, a reed will sprout from the hole and whisper the king’s secret to all who pass by. When Midas learns that his disgrace has become public, he condemns the barber to death, drinks bull’s blood and dies a miserable death.

In Wales: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Natural justice

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

P1060289This coming Monday, I’ll be at St Stephens Primary School in Shepherds Bush. They’ve asked me back over several years as part of their Arts Week and I’m looking forward to it. The children there really appreciate stories and among the ones I’m thinking of telling are some I’ve told to classes there in the past. (Children everywhere seem to love picking up on stories they’ve heard from you before).

One of the new tales I’m planning to tell is one I’ve hardly ever told before. Which age-group I’ll tell it with will depend on atmosphere and how things go at the time. First, let me give you an idea of the story. Then I’ll outline some of my thoughts on how and why I might tell it. 

The characters of the story:

1. An old woman (very poor and very kind)
2. The Little Red Rooster (he belongs to the old woman) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ And all the while…

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Trees near TrefelynThose little stories that make a particular point can sometimes prove tricky. The last few days, the weather has been lovely in London – cold but sunny enough to bring a smile to our faces and quite a change from incessant grey skies and rain. On one of my walks, remembering the great winds that blew over Christmas, I thought about that famed competition between Sun and Wind.

Sun and Wind fight it out:

Just as children sometimes do, and sometimes even grown-ups too, Sun and Wind were having an argument about which of them is stronger. Sun proclaimed:  ‘It’s definitely me.’ Wind thought differently, ‘No, it’s me.’

Sun and Wind decided to test out their claims.

‘See that young man walking down that street,’ said Sun. ‘I guarantee I can get his jacket off him quicker than you.’

‘It’s a deal,’ said Wind. ‘But I’m going to win.’

Without wasting a moment, Wind began blowing. Before he could even start roaring, the young man walking down the street pulled up the zip on his jacket. Then as Wind began roaring, he put his arms round himself, drawing his jacket even closer. (more…)