Language, communication and Storytelling
Language, communication and storytelling are part of our very core as human beings. From those first cries as a new-born baby, we are programmed to communicate with those around us, and as we grow and our imaginations awaken we can create the most magical worlds and characters to share with our audience.
Without these three elements life becomes very lonely, frustrating and isolating. This was highlighted to me on a Makaton sign language training day, when I was asked to describe a picture of a beach scene to the person in front of me, without speaking or having any common form communication between the two of us. This was extremely difficult, and of course I failed.
I strongly believe that Makaton should be taught in every classroom.
For me, language, communication and storytelling are more than understanding the mechanics of the written word, they are forms of expression which allow children to work through their thoughts and emotions, to create the impossible, to express themselves and to develop a better understanding of who they are. It is our job to listen.
Puppets are without doubt one of the best tools for children to express themselves. They offer children a safe way to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas on important issues. They can speak and act through their puppet and play out, reflect upon and make sense of events and situations.
Puppets are great for telling stories, mine are often quite mischievous! For those children who are not keen to take the stage in front of an audience, puppets are useful ways for them to engage with the storytelling process.
There are so many ways to make puppets and there are plenty of kits available online and in craft shops. You can make sock puppets, paper bag/envelope puppets, glove puppets and thousands more. Here is a simple felt finger puppet we have made:
You will need:
Felt or paper/card/fabric
Draw your puppet shape onto the felt or chosen material. To get the size you need you could place your finger on the felt and draw your shape around it. Make sure to give yourself a bit of extra space around the edges because you need to glue or staple these.
Cut out your shape and draw around it onto another piece of felt or your chosen material. Cut this shape out.
Glue or staple around the edges of your finger puppet, don’t forget to leave a space at the bottom for your finger!
Decorate your puppet with googly eyes, woolly hair and anything else you think it needs.
Leave the puppet to dry.
Now you are ready to name your puppet and go and play!
I am a huge fan of Story Sacks for children of all ages, they are so versatile and engaging. Story Sacks are also the reason that I learned to sew. There are so many beautiful and inexpensive fabrics online, that once you have made one story sack, you will probably make them for everyone!
If you are not keen on sewing, you can adapt plain pillow cases or canvas bags and decorate them with fabric paints or cut out material shapes which you can glue or wonder web onto your bag. Or you can buy complete story sacks online.
The nice thing about story sacks is that they are completely personal to you and your child. You can adapt them as your child grows, use them as you wish, change the stories and props and keep them forever.
You will need:
A sack, homemade or from a shop
Your child’s favourite book
Toys/ props/ puppets to support the story
Songs and rhymes that go with that story
Makaton signs, if available and you would like to use them
Make and decorate your sack. Fill it with all of the things listed above. If you are not confident with sewing or crafting, there are often classes available in local children's centres where you can make a story sack as part of a group. Story sacks are also sometimes available in local libraries.
Share the story sack with your child, tell the story, play with the props, use the sign language, sing songs and rhymes, have fun!
Be sure to hang and bags that have long cords or handles somewhere that will not be a danger to your child when story time has finished.
Shoe Box Cinema
This is an activity I used to do as a child to tell stories to my class, who at the time, were a bedroom full of dolls and teddy bears!
You will need:
A shoe box or any other box you wish to use, ideally with a removable lid
Two sticks/ pencils/ cardboard tubes/ bamboo cane/ whatever you have to hand. These must be the same length and must be wider than the box.
Cut a window into the lid of box. This will be the “screen” where you will see your pictures.
Decorate the box however you like, using paints, pens, stickers etc. You could cover it with white paper first if you want a plain surface to decorate. Leave to dry.
Cut your paper into strips that are almost as wide as the inside of your box. Sticky tape these together in one long strip.
Draw your story onto the strip, leaving a gap between each picture. Write a script to go with your pictures if you want to. It might help you when you are telling your story.
Ask an adult to make holes in the sides of your box at the top and bottom. Push your sticks or tubes through the holes so that they poke out of both sides of your box. (This can be quite tricky!)
Tape the top of your story strip to the top stick/tube and then wind your stick clockwise so that all of your story strip curls around it.
Secure the bottom of your story strip to the other stick using tape. Now wind this stick anti-clockwise so that your whole story is at the bottom of the box, and the first page/scene is showing.
Put the lid on your box to create the screen.
Use the sticks/ tubes to wind your story forwards and use your script to tell the story to your audience. Use musical instruments and your voice to add sound effects.
You could draw lots of different stories onto strips of paper and use them as film reels, carefully removing one story from your box and taping in another.