Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Getting Participation/5

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.

When children copy from the storyteller, they are actually participating. Hey presto, job done? One possible drawback lies in wait (and it may be dread of this that puts some people off in the first place). The burst of sound when children start to imitate a noise may feel like it’s getting out of control .

That’s when you need to get on with your story. So be ready with the good strong voice which communicates the fact that, if they don’t quieten down, they’re going to miss the next bit. Do this without saying, ‘Be quiet!’ Instead say something involving like this: ‘And do you know what happened next?Well, I’ll tell you.’


Three steps to help you improve:

1. You need to create a good repertoire of sounds to draw on. If you don’t know any good ones – for instance, what sound an alpaca might make – then ask the children. Children know lots more than you think. They pick it up from TV and from the world around them. Besides, children are very inventive. You can learn lots from them. And anyway, you’re not aiming to become a celebrity TV mimic, are you? Just a good storyteller.

2. A bit of practice helps you to become more confident. So practise. Lose your inhibitions. Practise in the bath or when you’re walking in the park (just wait till there’s no-one else around). Better still, practise with the children. You could make it into a game in circle time that you pass different noises around the group.

3. Notice what a difference all this makes. For you, it could give you a whole new sense of yourself. It’s not so different from making cooing noises to babies: it’s lovely when you get a response. You feel you’re creating a whole new bond. It’ll be the same when you delight in producing interesting sounds in your story. Reading or telling, you’ll feel delighted that it really makes a difference.

That’s it. Simple! See you next week for the last in this current series.

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