Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Children’s stories’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Dog-poo and Dylan Thomas

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

dylan thomasHave you ever visited Laugharne? Is so, you’ve surely walked along the shore of the estuary at the foot of the high walls of Laugharne castle and looked along towards the Boathouse where Dylan Thomas used to live.

Dylan Thomas is a wonderful poet and, rightly, the subject of lots of talk this year, the hundredth since his birth. The other night, I was reminded of the children who attended The Boathouse Project a few years ago. It was a week of workshops for all the top Juniors and Year 7s in the area with me and artist Catrin Webster.

The children showed great interest in Dylan Thomas’s work and also in Laugharne. Good stories and good art resulted. The other evening, talking about Dylan Thomas with friends, I was reminded of one of the stories. It was inspired by indignation at the amount of litter and dog-mess – dog-poo in children’s lingo – the children had noticed along the foreshore when we were collect impressions on what I call a Memory Walk.

Here’s the story. I can’t remember what its creators called it. I’m entitling it A Warning to All Litter-Droppers. (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 ~ BASE Awards

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

This evening I’m off to the BASE Awards event in Wolverton. And if you don’t know where Wolverton is, it’s right next to Milton Keynes.

Ancient Egypt and Us

Milton Keynes is a resonant place-name for me. I once worked with a brilliant class of 10-year olds there. One of the topics in their class at the time was Ancient Egyptians. The other was Ourselves. Their teacher wanted a project to bring the two topics together.

Of course, it’s possible to tell stories from Ancient Egypt. I did – and the children loved them. But how is it possible to imagine the length of time that has passed since the Ancient Egyptians existed? These children certainly couldn’t. Like most children of their age, they had little sense at all of time passing. So I came up with the idea of a Memory Chart on which each child would use hieroglyphs of their own design to notate one memory for each year of their lives so far. We made an exception for their first four years: most people have few recollections from that period. So those years, we decided, could be lumped together and occupy just one box in each person’s chart.

Memory work

The children were brilliant. When we did the initial memory work, there was a lot of jotting down, telling and retelling of what had happened. Then came the making of the memory charts. Each person creating their own, the hieroglyphs designed by the children were fun and inventive. Last came the bit of the project when, working in small-ish groups, the children worked out clever creative ways to tell their small stories as a group. One group, I recall, created a fascinating audio-spiral of their stories where each different year in their memories was signalled by the sound of a gong.

Milton Keynes again

So Milton Keynes it will be tonight. The BASE awards organisers have worked very hard. I hope their Awards event proves a lovely, sociable success. What’s more, I hope it helps to promote and encourage all aspects of the art of storytelling. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Subversives wanted

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Monsters make an excellent theme for developing children’s creativity. Monsters appeal to young people – there’s something essentially subversive in both.

So whether you’re a parent, teacher or children’s club leader – and whatever the age of the children you work with – you can get a lot out of monsters.

Here’s a programme for pursuing a Monsters theme:

• Find one or two good monster stories – for instance the Greek story of Typhon with older children 

• Prepare the stories for telling, then tell them to your children, be they in class, at home or in some kind of children’s club

• Allow time for the children to come up with comments and questions (in class or clubs, working in pairs or groups is best)

• Ask the children to suggest some modern-day monsters – you might be impressed by their ideas – and make a list of the monsters

• Invite them to draw, paint or make models of the monsters they’ve thought of (this gives them useful thinking time)

• Give them the time to make up a story about their particular monster (working in groups is best in a class)

• Get them to tell their story (each group can tell in turn to the others)


This whole enterprise could take a full morning or evening session or be spread out over several sessions. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Noticing the Dog-Poo

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

A Memory Walk is a fantastic thing to do with children. This week I was reminded of its potential while thinking about Dylan Thomas whose work is to be celebrated this coming Saturday, October 5th, in the evening entertainments at the London Welsh Literature Festival that follow my performance of my storytelling piece, Travels With My Welsh Aunt.

Dylan Thomas lived in Carmarthenshire in the village of Laugharne. Back in 2001, I was asked to join with Welsh artist Catrin Webster to run The Boathouse Project. This was to be a week-long project to explore Dylan Thomas, his work and the place where he lived, with Top Juniors and Year 7s from Carmarthenshire schools. Catrin would work with them through the medium of art. I would work with them through storytelling.

The Memory Walk I used with the groups of children attendeding was one of the best techniques I’ve ever invented to prime children’s language and their storytelling. With each new group at the beginning of each day session, I began by talking a bit about storytelling, telling a couple of stories and introducing some of Dylan Thomas’ characters and story ideas. A lot of people liked the thought of Captain Cat in Under Milk Wood, also the grandfather in A Visit to Grandpa’s who imagines every night that he’s driving a cart and horses when actually he’s sitting in bed. The idea of a boathouse proved inspiring too and so did the Voices of the Drowned that also figure in Under Milk Wood. Whose voices could they be today? And when might we hear them? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Stone

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

A surprise contribution to this blog arrived this week from Jean Edmiston, my friend and long-term colleague as a storyteller. Jean lives and works in her native Scotland these days so I don’t get to see much of her.

But we often speak on the phone about stories, storytelling and our common approach, which is to believe in how stories can empower imagination for everyone if they are approached in a sharing way. Below is what Jean wrote.

The bag of pebbles (more…)