This is the first story I told for my 100 day storytelling challenge: to tell 100 stories in 100 days in hopefully 100 different ways. This story uses my thumbs for the two starring characters and it is a wonderful story to tell as a beginner storyteller. You can just watch your thumbs with an interested and focused face and ignore the audience!! Also if you are fascinated by your thumbs, your listeners will be too. We are all hardwired to experience limbic resonance through our mirror neurons and so the most important thing probably is that you enjoy yourself…. especially your mistakes. Children get so bored of experts! Have a go, invite the children to join you in the hand and arm gestures and you will be sweet. Next time, you can take Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle somewhere that you and the children really want to go. (Storytelling tip: I always keep Mrs Waggle on my left hand, and Mrs Wiggle on the right. That way, they read alphabetically from left to right, and I don’t get muddled!)
Once upon a time, there was a boy who was turning five. He is a boy who loves stories about cheetahs. Everyone knew this about him… there were eight cheetahs in the cards he received from the other children (even though one was hiding behind a tree on one card!). Today was his birthday event at mat time. He hadn’t been to the centre for three weeks because he’d been in and out of hospital with a foot injury. Today he was distressed (unusual for him) that his mother left. Very. But he managed to get back from that terribly seductive edge. I had planned to tell a story for, with or by him… and was very relieved that he recovered his equanimity in time for us to quickly make decisions. Yes, a cheetah story… I could make it up. Could he tell me though, please, just three things that the cheetah was good at? Yes, running, jumping on other animals and climbing trees. And one thing that troubled Cheetah?…one thing he couldn’t do, and would like to be able to do? it turned out to be swimming. So I had all I needed.. a character and a challenge/obstacle/ problem.
I returned to work in a kindergarten where I had not been since autumn. When I was there in April I had created, in a tall vase, a display of vibrant red autumnal leaves from an ornamental grape vine. When I returned in August, with spring in the air, I was disappointed to find the dried grape vine leaves just where I had left them. I was stewing crabbily and judgmentally on my disappointment when I noticed something green among the dusty leaves. I was stunned to see a burst of new life, a fat green bud with tiny grape-looking flowers in its centre. Read More
I was privileged to be invited to spend a day at a centre, unobtrusively demonstrating ways to incorporate story telling into numerous different areas of the curriculum. Since the one year olds were also a powerful presence in the four year olds’ day, and very interested in everything that was on offer, it meant that painting and carpentry, collage and hot glue guns, and even loose parts, were mostly not available. Even the literacy materials were limited. Nonetheless with my trusty clip board and its double pencil attachment, we achieved a great deal. Much of what we did is revealed through the content of this learning story, written for a pretty articulate four year old, Harry. I was also very happy with my mat time storytelling. The little ones remained intrigued and interested, and having been promised access to all the props once it was over, were able to restrain themselves.
Story making with Harry
Harry, I had some wonderful moments with you today. What a proficient storyteller and ‘reader’ you already are. I met you at the play dough table and I fashioned five small ducks and one bigger one. You recognised the story and counted them to check on my numbers! I often ask children what those five little ducks might have been doing when they did not respond to their mother’s urgent quack quack quacking! And you had no trouble telling me the five reasons you thought of! And all different! (so lovely for stories to vary the mood of the dramatic moments). And we created it all in playdough, moulding all the features needed to identify the different reasons for their not coming when called!
You cnose ‘stuck in mud’, ‘busy cooking pies’, ‘playing soccer’, ‘playing hide and seek’, and ‘hiding under a blanket’! And then we drew the pictures of these events… together. You gave me a helpful reminder of how soccer balls look with those black geometric shapes in the pattern….here is our artistic rendition of the drama as it unfolded !!
Then you told me a long story about rabbits and dinosaurs. I asked open ended questions at intervals just as one does with a friend when they tell you stories at a cafe… Such as ‘so how did the dinosaur and the rabbit feel about what Buster did?” You declined to answer that question but you were happy to clarify a number of other points about what happened next. I asked whether Buster ever said ‘Sorry’ and you said he never did. I asked if I should write that down in the story and you nodded and so I did. I wrote it as you told it, and like with many children, I had to ask you to pause while I wrote it down, word for word, repeating what you said aloud… partly so you could see the words appearing in real time and partly so you could correct me if I recorded it incorrectly! Buster the naughtiest rabbit, who wanted to take over the world!! (Dan dan daran!)
Once upon a time, there was a bunny and a dinosaur. They lived in a meadow where there was meat and carrots to eat. Then Buster, the naughtiest rabbit, chewed all the carrots in town, (clarification needed… “Did he leave tooth marks in them all or did he eat them all up?” The latter apparently) till there was none left and he took all the pies and burnt them all in the oven.
The dinosaur put Buster in jail. Buster was very sad because he wanted to take over the world. The rabbit and the dinosaur moved to another meadow with more food.
Meanwhile Buster escaped and went to the new meadow and ate all the vegetables, and all the carrots, and all the meat and all the pies from inside the rabbit and the dinosaur’s house.
The dinosaur and the rabbit drank all the water in the pond so that Buster could not have any.
Buster gave up wanting to take over the world. He never said sorry and he went back to his own home and enjoyed a story from a book. The end.
If time had allowed it would have been great to have made a book… and to have given you the opportunity to illustrate it! Later just before lunch, I drew a story with Harrison about a wolf traversing a landscape (photo to the left). This narrative used lots of prepositions and had some interesting features. Harry, you watched and then wanted to create a similar ‘map’ and so you did, walking and talking me through and round, and past and over various things.. mainly a swimming pool! I named a couple of items… pool, wolf and home and you asked me to go back and label everything on Harrison’s map… so I did.
I believe it is very valuable for written literacy, especially in these pencil-less days of digital literacy, to write in front of children, speaking the equivalent as one goes. I can imagine there must be a tiny frisson of delight,(rather like a mini version of Helen Keller’s experience when she finally linked the sign for ‘water’ to the experience of cold water being pumped onto the palm of her hand), to have first hand ‘proof’ that spoken words can be represented by written squiggles.. although Harry, you have obviously grasped this concept well and truly!!
I wish that I had had more time to listen to you reading to the other non-sleeping children after lunch time: you are clearly a proficient and much appreciated story teller! When I shared my props for ‘The three little pigs’ during a quiet afternoon lull, you and Alex eagerly adopted and adapted the various props and were busy as beavers, retelling the story with each other.
Then, of course, there were two storytelling mat times, and you were an observant and engaged audience member. We had two more different versions of ‘Five little ducks’ ( one in a hand made ‘book’ and one acted out with props and five little rubber ducks). You seemed to engage with both of these and it was lovely for you to be able to experience the endless flexibility and potential for any story to be embellished and played with and made ‘one’s own’.
You and Alex really liked the rabbit and the cheetah who played hide and seek and Rabbit hid behind you. Harry, at mat time and although Cheetah did not cheat, he found his good friend the rabbit, and they had a hug!
It was a collaborative playful event, ad-libbing and improvising at all stages! I have a clip board with two pencils attached so that I can record and draw and so on, while a child can also add features and details.. and Harry, you drew a ‘barge’ which had no horns, and only one eye and a ‘crest’. These creatures needed to be moved around the page… either that or re-drawn on a new page …but we went for the delightfully creative process of ripping them out and re-attaching them with sellotape until it was time to move them back to place. Here are two images… one as it was ‘before’ ripping and the other after ripping… the troll had to go up and down… and the ‘barge’ was better at fighting than my billy goat, apparently! (Of course!)
I had drawn a fish, but you asked for a shark, and then when the troll fell in the water, the shark needed to open its mouth! I enjoyed this primitive version of ‘stopmotion’!! and clearly you did too, Harry!
My contribution to the story was changing the animals who crossed the bridge… a mouse, a cat and a bird.. all of whom rightly claimed that were all skin and bones , or all feathers, which would get stuck in the troll’s teeth!
Thank you for making my day a vivid and animated experience, Harry, and thank you for all your collaborative storytelling. We playdoughed a story, we drew a story, we ripped a story,, we visited a well known nursery rhyme story in four different media, we re- enacted a story, you invented and dictated a story, you read stories to the other children, and you took characters from a told story and re told it yourself while adapting materials to make new props, as you did for the little gingerbread man and his house who both appeared out of my bag at some point!
It was a rich day for me, and it seemed as though you were appreciating it too, Harry! Thank you.
(Recorded by Evelyn, a visiting ‘story-teller’. But then, who isn’t a storyteller!!? July 13th 2017)