Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Subversives wanted

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.


But the programme takes time – time for the adult (teacher, parent or club leader) to track down some stories and prepare them. Time for the children to absorb the stories they’ve heard and digest their own ideas. Time to think and make up new stories. Time to tell the stories they make. Time to react and respond.

If you’re a teacher, where’s the time to come from? If you haven’t already allowed such storywork time as part of your literacy development plans, you’ll have no room for such work in the immediate future. How about planning it in now for next term?


One time I used this Monsters programme with a very large group of children (they were about-to-be Year 7s who were visiting their future secondary school for an Induction Day). The children came up with extraordinary monsters – Rubbish Monsters, Environment-Eating Monsters, Children-Eating Monsters.

Their art-work and stories were very impressive. So too was their telling.  

Back-up from Jack Zipes

This week, the American academic, author and storyteller, Jack Zipes, gave a thought-provoking lecture at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. ‘Once Upon a Time: Changing the World through Storytelling’ was the title and it talked about the vital need to empower children to develop and express their own ideas. Jack saw this work as essential to enable them to avoid being swallowed up by the culture of celebrity and commodification which now dominates our lives in the Western world. A storytelling programme he’s been working on with schools in Minnesota is precisely designed to fulfil this need. And as all of us know who work in this way over here, the results of such an approach can be quite extraordinary. Jack Zipes describes the approach as subversive. I just think of it as creative, healthy and liberating.

But if subversive is what it is, please sign up to being a subversive too.

P.S. My photos this week are of the banner I made to take to that Secondary School to help bring the Monsters theme to life.

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