Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Props and Resources’ 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 ~ Spot the common factor

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

27 ShemiAny storytelling booking obliges you to think. What stories will you do? How might they accord with an overall theme? And how might you relate to the particular audience? All such questions are heightened for me when it’s a booking with children.

This next Monday, it’s to be two sessions at Wolfscastle School, a delightful little North Pembrokeshire Primary school which I’ve visited on several previous occasions. But those occasions were some years ago and by now all the children I saw will have moved on. How will I try to engage my two different groups on Monday? What comments might they make? What questions might they ask?

Planning has been energising. For the younger group, I’ve decided on three favourite stories that accord with the particular theme which, said the headmistress, has been the school’s theme this term. I don’t know if you’ll spot what it is. 

Story One: 

The first story to come to my mind was one of the tall tales of Shemi Wâd, a local storyteller from the 19th century who remained a well-known character in North Pembrokeshire memory at least until the mid-20th century. When I published Shemi’s Tall Tales, I discovered that children – not just here but everywhere – absolutely loved them. One of the tallest and most enjoyable is The Enormous Cabbage. Here it is (in brief): (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Mind as Hold-all

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

21993900-oriental-umbrella-isolated[1]Links have been a major theme in this blog over recent weeks. And by links I mean the kinds of associations that make themselves felt between stories  and things that crop up in real life. But as I settled to think about this week’s posting, I began feeling very aware that, so much of the time, we have to simultaneously hold in our minds all kinds of things which have no apparent connection. Maybe a small link pops up between some of them, maybe no link at all. Yet with or without threads to connect them, we still have to keep these diverse things in mind. Namely, mind as hold-all.

A 100th birthday:

This week, for instance, my mind was full of my friend Ella who, this Wednesday, reached the grand age of 100. On her actual birthday, she hosted a party for about 60 friends and I know we all felt full of admiration as she stayed standing to receive her guests and when it came time to cut her cake, walked across to it without any help of a stick. Ella’s memory and pleasure in life are intact. What Paul and I had made to give her was a Dear Ella book, a small recognition of the many memories of times past and present which she has shared with us. 

Umbrellas:

But meantime I’d  also had to get serious about umbrellas. This was because, this coming Monday I’ll be doing a storytelling day in a London school where their  Arts Week is going to centre on the painting by Renoir known as The Umbrellas. My only regret about the booking is that, since I’ll be there at the very start of the week, I won’t learn what the children will have made of the theme by the end of it. But never mind. What stories to tell has made an interesting challenge. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Story Stone

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Stone Crop 1Funny that. Whenever anyone has asked me what I’d try and save if my house was burning down, I’ve always replied, ‘My stones.’ In all shapes and sizes and colours, I have so many of them, picked up and brought home from walks over beaches. Yet on reflection, that’s a daft thing to say. If anything was to survive a fire, surely my many pebbles would be the things to do it.

Walking across a favourite Pembrokeshire beach on one of the brighter days this week, I started thinking about stones and pebbles all over again. Heart of stone, stone cold sober … stones are usually associated with coldness. Yet when you handle a pebble, it’s more likely to be warmth that you feel. Besides, the individuality of pebbles – size, shape, colour – warms your imagination. It’s  why I’ve often taken a bag of them on a storytelling visit to a school. For when you look at children looking at pebbles, it’s often as if they’ve never previously seen such things. Quite probably, many haven’t. Given the chance, they tend to look at them with enormous care, noticing their individual features – for sometimes a stone can look like a face, as if it has eyes to look back at you with. Or sometimes it may have cracks or holes that make it look like living things might hide inside it.

Besides, it’s rather nice to imagine that a stone can be alive, can even be hungry and have plenty to say. It’s why I’ve always liked telling children the following story which, as I recall, comes from South America.

The story stone: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Word walk

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

Words are key in storytelling. They create pictures, they make you think, they open doors. So I’ve been thinking about their importance. What follows is something of a miscellany – words I noticed during the week and how and where I noticed them.

In my own thinking:Key 5 compress

I was making some notes about using props with young children and trying to work out why it’s so useful to do this. For some reason, my mind immediately focused on keys as an example. Why keys? Well, they’re everyday things, they come in different shapes and sizes, I’ve got some very nice ones in my Story Bag and keys appear in several stories I tell.

So what happens when I’m storytelling? Well, get out a key, show it to an audience of young children and ask what it could be for and almost immediately answers start coming.  It could be the key to a treasure box … a secret room … a giant’s castle …the door to your house.

Immediately such ideas come out of individual children’s mouths, the shared world of the audience’s imagination is starting to expand.

On a board outside a local café: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Taking a risk

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

apple-star[1]I took a bit of a risk on Thursday evening. We were giving the second in our Enchantment series of Songs and Stories concerts at Pepper’s in Fishguard. This was Winter Enchantment. During the second half, I was going to do two readings – one from A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, the second the hilarious Twelve Thank-You Notes of Christmas, originally written by I’ve no idea who.

But in the first half, I’d decided to tell three short stories. The third was Baboushka, the poignant story of Russia’s Mother Christmas. (Put Baboushka into the Search box on the left of this blog; you’ll come up with my posting for December 17, 2011).  The second story was The Pointing Finger which I recounted here a few weeks ago on November 5, 2016.  The first was the story I call Star Apple.

Star Apple was a risk because I think of it as a story for children. But this was an audience of adults. Granted, I’ve told it at this time of the year to any number of teachers’ or parents’ workshops. ‘It’s a great story to tell to children,’ I say. ‘It’s easy to remember. It has the great advantage that it needs a prop (always a help because it gives you something to focus on). Besides it is about a star – and that is very seasonal as we think about Christmas.’

Why I decided to take a risk on it at Winter Enchantment is that the story is simple and magical and I thought some of my audience might be inspired to retell it at family gatherings over Christmas. Why not be ready with a story to entertain whoever is present? (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 ~ Ibanang Story 2

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Last week’s story was The Swallowing Drum, the story of a girl called Ibanang. This week, I promised some ideas about telling and working with it. Before getting going, however, I must emphasise my belief that a simple, straightforward telling can also work very well. Often, however, participation is both appropriate and helpful for enriching the story and making it stick in its listeners’ minds. What follows are some well-tried ideas.

Steph's drumsJoining in with sound and action:

The drums Ibanang encounters on her way into the forest provide a brilliant opportunity. Pretend you are beating the drums with drum-sticks and repeat what the drums say a number of times and in different tones of voice – high for the little drum, medium-voice for the middle-size one, low for the big one. By the time you get to the middle-size drum – and I recommend leaving it to the children to join in when they want to – I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have your whole group doing the same as you.

If you know some kind of celebratory song, add it in at the end of the story when people are celebrating the end of the evil drum. And sing it several times over, with verve.

Getting children to volunteer their own ideas:

Some storytellers worry that the session will get out of control if you provide opportunities for children to say things in the course of the storytelling. Perhaps this is why some adults only ask very limited questions (eg do you know what colour of coat Red Riding Hood put on?) (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 ~ Recycling

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

Flag-of-Wales-thumbnail[1]OK, I admit it. Over the last few weeks, I’ve become a devoted football fan. Obviously that’s because I’m Welsh and the Wales football team did so brilliantly in the Euros. It wasn’t easy seeing them get knocked out against Portugal in their semi-final this Wednesday. Yet, especially in this post-Brexit world, it’s an inspiration that the team believes so much in the strength of playing as a team, they pay such high regard to their fans and the support they get from them, they speak with such warmth of their country and they have been so good-humoured during their time away in France.

Besides, Gareth Bale is drop-dead gorgeous, both to look at and in his manner. I’m not sure I’ll keep following football as avidly now as I have been, but I’m sure I’ll be following him and the wonderful Welsh team.

It’s surely all this football stuff that caused a familiar phrase to pop up in my mind this week and with it the story from which it comes. The phrase is ‘extendable legs’. And the story it comes from is one I told in this blog on 21st July, 2012. To read a full version of it, you can look back at that blog posting. Simply fill in the words Chinese Brothers in the Storyworks Blog References slot on the top left side of the blog. Then press Search and up it will come.

The story itself is one children love to remember. An example occurred earlier this summer when I said to the two children in a family we know that I had a special story to tell them. Because the 10-year old sister is potty about mermaids, this was going to be a mermaid story. But somehow or other the promise of a story immediately made the 7-year old brother remember  The Five Chinese Brothers which I’d told to them it must be three years ago. Volunteering that they still had the colourful Chinese pin-cushion I’d taken them as a present to go with the story, he started recalling the magic powers that are at its centre.

The Five Chinese Brothers: (more…)