Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Storytelling games’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Props 1: inviting response

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Last week brought lovely comments on my thoughts about audience. So this week – and over one or two following weeks as well – I’ve decided to write about props. It’s a subject that interests me a lot. Why use a prop or props? Do they help or hinder a storytelling or indeed the storyteller? How many props might one use in a session and how is best to deploy them? And where might one obtain them?

Props stimulate questions:

Placed on a theatre stage, props can intrigue the audience. Props arouse subliminal questions. Why is that object there? Who is going to use it and when and why? But storytelling is generally less theatrical. So why would a storyteller make use of a prop or props? An immediate answer has to do with the very nature of a prop. A stick, a stone, a badge, a flower: a prop is some kind of object that has been selected with a view to intriguing or informing the audience. Perhaps it is itself going to be the subject of a story. Perhaps its colour or shape is going to be significant. Perhaps it’s a matter of who owned it, where it came from. Props stimulate questions. (more…)

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 ~ Make it!

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

It’s summer-time and time for fun. Last week it was The Flea’s Adventure. This week, it’s The Captain’s T-shirt, another ‘doing’ story that children adore and for which I have to thank brilliant storyteller, Sally Tonge, who first showed me how to do it. Plus, thanks to another great storyteller, Karen Tovell, today’s delights include The Magic Jumping Flea Trick, an excellent device to intrigue and enrapture children which she sent in during the week in response to last week’s story.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Jump to it!

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Each day in my email Inbox there arrives a posting from Wordsmith. This is an excellent web-site for anyone with a relish for words. Each week Wordsmith takes a different theme for the daily words that are chosen. This week’s were all related to creatures. One of the creatures was flea and the associated word was ‘puce’. (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 ~ Plotting

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

A few weeks back now, after an evening with a group of friends, one of them sent me a very nice email. It said he’d really loved a story I’d told and that he’d love listening to me even if I was just reading a shopping list. I was properly flattered and suddenly reminded of a couple of ideas I’d come across once when looking into memorisation techniques.

The ancient Greek technique

One idea from ancient Greece is an exercise for remembering a group of items. You start by mentally associating each item with an object in a room that you know. You have to really focus, making each association as intense or funny or fantastic as you can. After you’ve done that, you should be able to remember your group of items whenever you want to. Just take a mental walk round that room. As you catch sight of the objects in it, the associations you made should flood into your mind – and with them the items you wanted to recall.

The Shopping List Story

The shopping list technique is similar except that it involves creating a story. Perhaps you’re about to go shopping and you haven’t got any paper to make a list. Or maybe you’ve just got vast holes in your brain like I sometimes have these days. (It’s age!) Don’t panic. Mentally assemble the items you want to remember to buy and then start devising a story that connects them up. It can be any kind of story – as ludicrous, fantastical or realistic as you like. The activity could be a fantastic exercise for a class of children (aged about 7 or upwards?) Or equally satisfying with a gaggle of grand-children (Liz – could this be one for you?) Or maybe it’s just what is needed if you’re on your own (in bed with a cough).

Give it a whirl!

This week I’ve had plenty of time. The cough I’ve had for nearly three weeks suddenly became absolutely pernicious and I’ve have had to spend more than one day in bed. Boring. So I got out the two shopping lists my friend had sent me after I’d emailed him back. I hadn’t told him why I was asking him for a shopping list. I’d just said it was for a project I had in mind. Kindly, he sent me two. One was a list of ingredients for a Christmas cake. The other was an ordinary sort of list consisting of 17 different items.

Sitting in bed, I set about my story which I intend as a kind of present for him. I didn’t do much with the Christmas cake list – too long and complicated. But I didn’t entirely ignore it either. Come back next week and I’ll tell you what resulted – or part of it at least. Meantime why don’t you also give it a go? The full 17-strong list is below. If you’re doing it with a class of children, you could always suggest they select just three or four items for their storymaking.

The Shopping List:

Milk….Eggs, medium….Butter, unsalted….Orange juice….Cucumbers….Carrots….Green beans….Lemons….Limes….Diced stewing steak….Cream cheese….Andrex toilet roll….Persil non-bio washing powder….Dettol antibacterial surface cleaner….Stainless steel polish….Vitamin C/Zinc tablets….Tea tree and Mint shower gel

PS: Good luck!

Photos this week are pretty obvious. Cows to represent milk (and, yes, I’ve chosen these particular cows because they were the  most fetching I’ve ever photographed and in the most fetching place in New Zealand). And wooden eggs to represent real eggs (and isn’t it lucky they’re wooden since our cat takes the greatest pleasure in pawing them off their little dish whenever he jumps onto my desk). (more…)

Storytelling Starters~ Summer Holiday Games

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

It’s the summer holidays – just the right time for some storytelling games. On your own, you can deliberately set out to develop all kinds of alternative scenarios to situations in traditional stories or that are happening in your own lifstorytelling games are fun in pairs or in groups.

Storytelling games develop imagination, relish quirky ideas, treasure inventiveness of language. They’re most fun in pairs or in groups.

This week I came across an excellently ridiculous story that came out of a session I ran way back in 2001. The session was with one of my friend Debbie Guneratne’s Small Tales Storytelling Clubs. I found my note of what happened while sorting through my shelves of old diaries, storytelling journals and books of stories I’ve written. The aim of my sorting was to be throwing stuff away. I can’t say I did much chucking. But I loved the reading and reflecting, particularly in regard to my journals.

The date was Saturday, 17th March 2001. First we played my Empty World game in which, as the game goes on (there’s lots of rhythm and repetition), each participant chooses an item whose name begins with the same first letter as their own first name. Afterwards, I had the idea of suggesting that we try to make links between the items that had been put into our Empty World. On this occasion, these were as follows: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Magic of Objects

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

You know a story is working its magic when a listener says they were really inside it. That’s what child after child reported this Wednesday in one of the classes where I was telling stories at St Stephen’s Primary School in Shepherds Bush. I’d asked them what they’d felt during a story I’d told them. ‘As if I was in it.’ ‘Like I was there.’ ‘I felt like it was happening to me.’

The same kinds of thing were said on Thursday at Session 3 of the Parents’ Storytelling Course at Kensington Palace. The parents on the course are a terrific group of people, all of them mums except for one dad. One said this week, ‘This storytelling course is really changing my life.’ It was the greater depth of their response to the world around them that several had noticed – like they were going more deeply into the things around them. One had done lots of Internet research on historical personages linked with the palace. Another is now bringing some of our storytelling techniques into the nightly storytelling she does with her children.

‘It makes them really involved,’ she said. ‘My son is aged nine. Now he is paying more attention.’

Making things happen (more…)

Storytelling Starters – Recycling

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Recycling has to happen quite often when you’re a storyteller. Stories have to be re-made, themes and ideas adapted to the present need. This is partly because motifs in stories are, by nature, constantly recycling themselves, reappearing in some other similar form, maybe in a new story you’re making. Partly, too, it’s because you’d never have enough time or energy or imagination to make everything completely new every time.

So in Session 2 of my parents’ storytelling course at Kensington Palace this week, some recycling had to go on.

Item 1: name game

First there was another name game. We’d had one last week but this week a few new parents had joined. It was important to re-establish the friendly, inclusive atmosphere we’d created in Session 1. This week’s name game was one I’ve used many dozens of times before. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Let’s Move

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Today’s the last of my storytelling games – at any rate for now. Next week, I’ll be on holiday. Check my blog to see where I’ll be! This week, I’m writing about a game I’m calling Let’s Move though I don’t think I’ve ever given it a title before.

Who’s Let’s Move for:

I’ve never played this game with children. It could be worth trying, especially perhaps on occasions such as school camping trips. Usually I’ve played it with groups of adults and generally when I’ve got to know the group quite well.

What happens:

As the storyteller and facilitator, you start off by introducing the idea that we might all fantasise about moving somewhere together and seeing what kind of world we will build together. Shall we go somewhere nice and warm? Somewhere far away? The possibilities are endless. The stars? An unpopulated island? The past?

As you start to receive suggestions of where you might all go, you can also start to throw out the idea that people can decide where they’ll live in this place and who exactly they are. Some in the group might start identifying particular jobs that they do, some might be related to others. They might discover that there are common projects in their new community or warring factions or scandals.

You can also help give shape to the game by saying you’ll be playing it for about half an hour and that, as facilitator, you’ll help to keep order.

A personal experience of playing the game:

My single most memorable time with Let’s Move took place early on in my career. I’d been invited to run weekly storytelling training sessions with groups of previously unemployed people who were now getting jobs on After-School Care Schemes in Lambeth.

There were many groups, many sessions. The people who attended varied in age, gender and ethnicity. Many were Jamaicans. I remember one man articulating a memorable question when I got his particular group involved in telling and retelling stories: ‘Can we use our own voice?’ I knew what he meant. I am white, a woman and middle-class with an educated middle-class voice. He was black, male and working-class and he spoke with a Jamaican voice. How could I be any kind of role-model for him? But his question has stuck with me always. I’ve often referred to it in other sessions since. What else have we got but our own voice? How can we tell stories in any way but our own way? Part of the point of storytelling training to me is to get people to see this and be empowered by it. (more…)