Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle

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!)

Springtime, the forgetful old woman and the grapevine.

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

Buster the naughtiest rabbit and 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!


Another exciting development after lunch was creating a sort of version of The Billy Goats Gruff and you were an eager participant again, offering ideas, and images, and adding requests.        



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)

Oi! Give me back my diamond!

Creative collaborative storytelling.

What a strange circuitous route creativity takes! On the Kapiti Coast I heard a story called The Sultan and the Magic Rooster from a woman who works with people with special learning needs from the UK and then I learnt it, and added opportunities for more and more participation by the children. Making bee sounds, sucking up water sounds, putting out fire sounds… and the indignant chorus line, “Oi! Give me back my diamond”.

I did it first at a library story telling session and made a table top puppet for the rooster, with a papier mache head on a  hard cardboard cone.

Then I told it (propless) to a group of kindergarten children and during the day, I made a picture of a rooster at the art table and made it into a book cover.

My plan was to draw or paint all the other pictures but of course there was no time. However, I worked out how many pages there needed to be, and at appropriate intervals I had a full page with the words of

“Oi! Give me back my diamond!”.


Because there were no images and no words, the children were inspired to help me tell it, and I dutifully turned the blank pages as the plot  unfurled. Then I would come across the chorus, and they would all bellow it out joyously! And so the story was retold, and the blank book serendipitously became another part of my storytelling repertoire.

So many things constellate to create new ideas and the process of creativity becomes increasingly fascinating, as one thing triggers another and cross fertilisation happens. This is my idea of what will happen when storytelling becomes part of a centre’s culture. So then, that rooster can be in five different stories and bring his storylines, strategies and experiences into a variety of contexts, weaving a rich tapestry of complex neural  pathways.

A further development was that I made another book with an image of a cat in a garden on the front but no words inside. A child said,” It can’t be a story. There are no words”, and so I took it to mat time, and asked three children to come up with me, and tell me the story of the cat in the garden.

They did a wonderful job, and then another three children told  a second story, using the same provocation of the cat sitting amidst the flowers. What is remarkable is that each story had both a  happy and a sad ending.  Before work the next day, I quickly drew the two stories and the four endings into the book and ‘read’ their story to/ with  them,  which had now  become a book, but still without words. Which they listened to with great attentiveness.

This evolved at another centre soon afterwards, when I read them the children’s two  cat stories and invited them to  create a story too. I then produced a few random ‘cover’ title pages to choose between, and they chose the car image. So I invited another  three children to tell us what happened in the story. The plot unravelled about a cat and a bunny who went for a picnic, were chased by a giant bear and tried three different strategies for escaping from him before remembering they had a car they could escape in!

Then I was on outside duty and started to do some drawings for their story, and of course, they all leapt in. I could have drawn a story board of required images which would have been good for them to work out what was needed but would also have suggested a ‘right way’ of drawing an image.

There was no time, there was a howling gale and everything, paint, paper,pencils, felts,  brushes, small lids of paint with bunched up tissues with which  to smear a sky or some grass in, so that it could be rubbed ‘dry’ and be safely stacked … all had to be held down with hammers and lumps of wood, but nonetheless, half a dozen children or more, contributed images, announcing what they planned to draw. I occasionally said “We still need a picture of when…….” One image was of a horse which I asked politely if I could turn it into a bear cos I was one short. And a younger child’s image conveniently became an image of panic and fear, whilst her other circular spiral image made a very good hole to trap the bear in.

Then I sewed the whole book together, made myself a copy, and read it to them at mat time.  I think such a story is such an empowering experience, introducing a playfulness, flexibility, creativity and collaborative creativity, along with a strong sense of agency. They were so engaged, and I was happy as Larry with a project to work on, rather than drifting vaguely. I am very taken with the concept of a ‘planted adult’, meaning that I stay still and they swirl around me, but I am predictably and inspirationally engaged in their midst.  I like to think.

The two stories above were more about the bones of a story and less about the flesh. We filled those in when we drew it, in a way. When a child has drawn some images and I am writing the words that tell the story alongside the image, I like to think I ask questions a bit like those lovely guys in the Flight of the Conchords.  Listen to how they interact with the children. They are genuinely interested in learning from the children. They ask questions to which they do not know the answers. They accept whatever they children offer and do not block their ideas. The result? simply magical. i like to think that when i ask children to tell me their story when they create a book or some such that i also play the pa rt of ‘naive enquirer’ as well as these dudes!

I took a dictation about a party. it was for the King. I asked if the queen would have been there too., Her answer was that the Queen was allowed to come. So I wrote that. (Meaning that instead of . adding ‘for the king and the queen’…i wrote,’ The Queen was allowed to come’. It conveys a complexity of relationship that good stories always have) She told me that she wore a purple dress. i wrote that. When i asked if there was any more she could tell me about her appearance, she explained that she had gentle shoes on. Gentle shoes, I said, what are they?”They are not high heels, because these people are fairies and not ginormous”. The result was splendid, just like the stunning song about feeling inside and ‘stuff like that’. So the final part of this trilogy was last week when I redid the story of the Rooster with a magic tummy  at another kindergarten.

Day one, I told it with their help. Day two, they helped me to tell it, and I used the book and they bellowed the chorus, and learnt the meaning and gesture for ‘indignation’, captured by the word ‘Oi!” in my opinion. Even by this point, one parent had commented that this was the longest story that her daughter had ever regaled her with at home. Other parents commented similarly over the following days. There is something, I believe, about the fact that I did not need a book that made the children appreciate that neither did they.

Day three, I had made small table top puppets out of wedges of wood during Day two, and they were quite simple figures. No glue gun, so I had to wall staple the hair on.  That night, I embellished them quite a lot and was very pleased with them. I adjusted that courtiers who gave advice so that there were three of them.

And then at mat time, I set it out with different heights and fabrics and walked the story through. Oh, and I had also adapted a tissue box, a shoe box, and a cardboard cylinder into a bee hive, an oven and a well. They children helped me to decorate and create them.


Day four, we did it as a dramatised live version. I sewed up loops of different coloured wide ribbon while stuck in traffic jams on the way to work, so they could be worn like netball player sashes. Purple for the sultan, gold for the rooster, green for the old lady, and yellow , blue and red for the three courtiers who think up the three ways to get rid of the rooster.  There were also three sarongs to create the ‘traps’. Blue for the well, red for the fire and yellow for the beehive. A few blocks for height for castles and window sills.  In the moment, it suddenly became obvious that the rooster could actually stuff the blue water up his jersey until he spat it out in the oven to put out the red fire cloth. AND we found a way to put the rooster down the sultan’s baggy pants.  A bowl of ‘treasure’ of plastic diamond looking shapes were also always incorporated into each telling of the story.

The children finally knew the story so well, having  seen it, heard it, read it, small-worlded it, and now played  it, and also retold it at home. It was so marvellous to see how far the story had travelled over the four days. And what a great sense of ownership and interest had developed in the children. And how many children felt empowered to extend their oral literacy at home, and tell their parents stories as well. I am  not sure about the moral but certainly there was a message that greed does  not end well.

P.S as you can see there is a video. If I knew how to upload it, I would. In the meantime, I have permission to share it at my workshops so I look forward to being invited to provide a workshop for up and coming storytellers.