Geometry concepts evolve into the story of The Squabbling Leaves.

I went for  a walk and was musing on the possibilities of various plants that I could take with me for a one day relieving opportunity. Building houses with  strips of gum bark found yesterday while lying under the trees’ leafy shade, and then huge dried karaka  leaves. Looking at different leaves and possible ways to use them. My focus shifted to the fact that they have ERO visiting and want me to incorporate  maths into my mattimes and impress the inspectors.

Then thinking of the geometrical shapes of houses… teepees, yurts, castles, mansions, caves and so on. And the language for the shapes and started thinking about all the different shapes, and then textures, and then sizes of leaves. Curved,  pointed, round, triangular, square, thin, wide,  large and small, wrinkly, shiny…. so  many wonderful descriptive adjectives. Another inadvertent language outcome.



It became obvious that just talking about shapes would be a whole lot less engaging than if I could weave the geometry and attributes of the different leaves into a story.I picked some and as I walked home a story evolved!   And here it is:  The squabble of the leaves….

I was also thinking about some key qualities that good children’s stories often have… repetition, rhythm, rhyme, including experiences, events, objects that are meaningful to the children/child, giving space for memory and imagination,using voice and gesture.  And through the process of walking and dreaming and considering, I came up with a story. I wondered about the 100 day challenge and whether I should give myself that discipline so that I get better at it!

The mother returns for her baby……
The baby fairy surrounded by the competitive leaves.












So this might be a story for a group of children who are very competitive and lack a sense of community. One could tell it more than once and one could also do the same thing with flowers… some have scent, some have medicinal qualiities and some have longlasting qualities, others have colour for dying fabric, and others become vegetables. Many varied virtues… each different, each valid. A simple message, a powerful message!


Here  is a wonderful imaginative story somebody wrote about the evolutionary adaptation of the pitcher plant, complete with repetitive refrain! 

pitcher plant Rather well

Key characteristics of a successful short story to tell to children.

Firstly there is the structure and content and then there are the crucial characteristics of successful delivery…. This is my summary of those qualities. And here is a link to a winning story based commercial which fills each and every one of the content criteria. It is not a story told orally, but it could be so very easily… with a few props and a few  minutes spent memorising the plot. Interestingly, I once found a folk tale about a dog and an elephant, which basically follows a similar plot line and would be just as easy to act out, and tell.

check out these images of dog and elephant friendships!

Key qualities of a good story to tell with children and ways to tell it.

Content of story



Quality of repetition – phrases, motif, rhymes, patterns of three

Clear beginning and end, with beginning that cuts to the chase

Content somehow relates to our known everyday experiences

Limited number of characters

Some challenge/conflict/ problem to be overcome…moments of tension

S/hero is in some ways transformed through the events of the story… wiser, stronger, richer, humbler, more loving, etc

Definite ending/climax/ safe home again etc

Events and characters introduced early on are woven in again by the end.

Manner of delivery

Introducing it with music, a chant or a verse or a call and respond chant

Setting it out with respect and ceremony

Make eye contact

Vary pace, tone, volume

Be very involved yourself. Believe in it, be the story as you tell it

Feel smell, hear, touch things …use your body language to engage their senses

Opportunities to participate and contribute…sounds , songs, ideas, names

Address children by name

Relate it to the children’s experience

Include new words of a repeated refrain or verse to tune of well known rhyme

Use your voice gently – don’t over emote

Emphasise the verbs…rather than the nouns

Avoid words like beautiful, nice, and yummy. Use specific, precise, interesting words