Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Ibanang Story 2

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?)

Choose your moments in advance and you can ask much more exploratory things, things that give children the chance to speak up with their own ideas. When you feel enough has been said, you’ve hold the reins in your own hand: there’s more story waiting to be told and you’re the one that knows it.   

0808-0711-1417-5237Points in Ibanang’s story that invite discussion:

1. What’s in the forest?

You could probably invite discussion without actually saying so by saying something like this: ‘You can probably guess what Ibanang and her friends were thinking about what might be in the forest … why they weren’t supposed to go there.’ Use a ruminative tone of voice with a questioning edge, employ a bit of a pause and ideas will surely be forthcoming.

2. Which fork in the path should Ibanang take?

You could introduce the question like this: So when Ibanang saw the fork in the path, she had to decide which way to go. I don’t know what you’d do. Go  right or  left? When you articulate this question, you discover that we all have our different ways of approaching the answer. Some people, I’ve learned, will always go to the right, some will toss a coin, some will think about going a little way down each path to see how the land lies before deciding. What could be more interesting than finding out what the children you’re talking to would do?

3. What things might Ibanang’s mother take with her into the forest?

Here’s an opportunity for a great long chain of items to be mentioned. It all develops the richness of the story (and of course it develops vocabulary). Again it’s slowed-down speech and pausing that is needed as a sign that you are inviting the children to speak. Knife …nails … a fork maybe? More items will come from the children as they cue in to the idea.

After the telling:

If there’s time for workshop work after the storytelling, there’s a great deal that can be done. Of course, there are the usual approaches – children retelling the story in groups, children making story-boards of it. But what about taking the story onwards? Bringing out some of the hidden questions in the Ibanang story might result in the creation of some very interesting new stories.

Creating new stories:P1080287

1. How and why did the swallowing drum get to be so evil?

2. Who else was inside the drum when Ibanang was swallowed up? What were their stories?

Discussing issues:  

1. Were the three drums Ibanang met on her way into the forest trying to warn her or draw her on?

2. Was Ibanang or her mother the heroine of the story?

Drawing and writing:

An idea I was introduced to in South Africa was to make a zigzag book of the story. Because the basis of the zig-zag book is fun and easy to make (folded card) and because it can be quite small, it’s a less daunting format for writing the story. And of course, A zig-zag book likes to have an illustration on each zig or zag. The result becomes a short sequence of pictures and captions telling the essentials of the story. It’s easy to make and fun to do.

 PS: Top photo this week comes from storyteller Steph from Brixton who works in various South London schools. She says she made the drums in the picture from old water bottles and – wow, how brilliant!  – children love them. Middle photo seems appropriate as talking is one thing mouths do.  Bottom photo is of a potential zig-zag book. I’ve looked and looked for the one I made years ago on the Ibanang story. Can’t find it anywhere! At least this blank one might give the general idea.


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