Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Gibberish

Summer holidays coming up has reminded me of several alphabet games we used to play as kids – in the car coming back from the beach, in the caravan before going to sleep. It feels like a good idea to share them. You may be able to use them too.

Going Away: 

03One of our games was that old accumulating favourite – I’m calling it Going Away – where one person starts and each subsequent player has to recite every contribution that has gone before, plus add their own new one. It goes in alphabetical order and involves the name of a person, the name of a place and the name of an object or creature. So:

Ann went to Ankara with an apple

Bob went to Birmingham with a bluebird

Candida went to Canada with a cat


Ging Gang Gooly:

Another game I loved involves that famous old Scout song, Ging Gang Gooly. Here are the words as we used to know them (there are many slight variations):

Ging gang gooly gooly gooly gooly wish wash,

Ging gang goo, ging gang goo.

Ging gang gooly gooly gooly gooly wish wash,

Ging gang goo, ging gang goo.

Hayla, o hayla shayla, o hayla shayla, shayla, o,

Hayla, o hayla shayla, o hayla shayla, shayla, o.

Shally wally, shally wally, shally wally, shally wally

Oompah, oompah, oompah, oompah.

What we loved doing was singing this song again and again with all the variations the alphabet could provide. So each different time we sang it, we’d change the first letter of all the words. So now it would come out as Bing Bang Booly. Or Ding Dang Dooly. Or Fing Fang Fooly. And so on and on we went. My mother must have gone mad.

You can easily look up the history of this song on Wikipedia – I’ve just done it. Also on Bing or Google you’ll find yourself directed to several different Youtube versions of it being sung. I like the one where the words are on the screen as a gang of kids sing them.

Paul's x in skyApparently the song was made up by Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouts, during the 1st World Scout Jamboree in 1920. He made it up in gibberish deliberately so that it could be sung by children of any country without problems about language.

Sounds daft. Great fun! And for me, I think, an expression of what later became my passion for words and sounds.

Talking of which – I’ve mentioned it before – that Ging Gang Gooly game must have been somewhere at the bottom of my mind when I started making up my Animal Howdeedo stories. These began spontaneously – in other words, on the hoof – when I was storytelling one day in a largely Asian school. Ahmed the Ant Gets Angry, Fatima the Fish Gets Frightened, Hamid the Hippo Gets Happy – the stories that we made up on the spot became a fun way of connecting the names of  children in the class with different human feelings and with animal names (‘feelings’ was the class topic at the time).

Try it yourself! In school, out of school, on holiday, it’s fun. With your own family or a whole gang of kids, all you have to do is first settle on a boy or girl’s name, then an animal or bird and a human feeling, both of which start with the same letter. Next, allow a story to emerge that makes the character in your story feel good by the end. Upbeat is what you want. It works.

P.S. I couldn’t think what photos might connect with my theme this week until I thought of a C shape made by seaweed that I saw on the beach and the X shape my husband saw earlier this week in aeroplane traces in the sky.


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4 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Gibberish”

  1. Liz Richards Says:

    Love this blog and you have given me a few ideas for when the grandchildren come and stay Liz

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Summer coming up, children coming to stay, we all need good ideas of things to do and share. It’s a real joy to me as always that you find the Blog helpful. Happy days!

  3. Hilary Minns Says:

    Mary’s alphabet fun reminds me of something a friend of mine did some years ago. She was a superb teacher, and wanted to help the children in her class to read using forms of public print, so she made a Delicious Alphabet book from photos she took of sweets and chocolates they loved and knew about – so: Aero, Bounty, Crunchie and so on, right through the alphabet (X was formed by putting Smarties in a cross shape). The stories they told her about each photo (‘My auntie loves Mars Bars best of all’; ‘We always buy a KitKat when we go on the bus to see my grandma’) are a great reminder that food can trigger all kinds of memories. A reminder too for all of us who work with young children that different kinds of knowledge and skills need to be understood and used by young children as they learn to read – knowledge of how to match sounds to letters, to be sure, but knowledge too of how to recognise whole words and, crucially, the ability to use context as children relate the meaning on the page to events in their own lives.

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Hilary, as always your comment is so true and so welcome. Thanks for telling us about the teacher who made the Delicious Alphabet book and especially about the responses of the children who were involved. I think that, like you, that teacher must have been a very good listener to hear the stories the children told her and recognise that the children were telling her things that were important to them. All too often, I think adults pass over what children say as not being the right thing, not being big enough or important enough or ‘on target’ enough. In failing to hear, they miss the communication and the opportunity to build on it.

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