I recently took my two grandsons, Dougie aged 5 and Murray aged 4, to see The Princess Pirate at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We were in a Yurt with lots of adults and about 30 children who were all encouraged, by the Princess, to come and sit at the front. It was a great 50-minute show and I was really impressed with the storytelling skills of the actress Fliss Russell. Here is what I learned about great storytelling skills:
1. Have an outline in your mind of the story you want to tell
2. Identify places where you want to stop and invite the children to make suggestions that develop the story
3.Then at these places encourage the children to identify a sound or a movement that goes along with their suggestion
4. Repeat the movement or sound a few times making it bigger each time
5. Praise the children for their suggestions
5. Move onto the next part of the story.
Fliss was always in control of the flow of the story. She also kept the pace moving along so that the children did not take over or lose interest. By way of example, here is an excerpt from the time we spent with her.
"I am a Princess Pirate and I live in a big castle and I have a huge bed" - (lots of big movements and pirate voices) "I sleep really well in my big bed and when I wake up in the morning what do you think is the first thing I do?" (wait for suggestions and select one that fits with the story) 'Yes, you are right! I have a great big stretch. Can you all do a great big stretch?" (lots of great big stretches) "Is there a big sound that goes with this stretch? (lots of sounds offered) "Yes, like a great big yawn. Can we all do a big stretch with a great big yawn? (wait for the sound to subside) I can't hear you - it needs to be much bigger" (wait for the next round of BIG yawns). 'Ok, once I have stretched and yawned what do you think I do next? " .... and so on.
I really enjoyed watching how Fliss held the children's attention for the whole time and we chatted all the way home about their Pirate Adventure.
I have been practising these storytelling skills and it really works. One of the recent stories with the boys was a journey through the centre of the Earth to visit China. We put on our special boots and suits to protect us from the lava. (lots of suggestions, movement and noises as we did this). We had special tools with special movements and sounds as we cut through the different layers of the Earth. We played at tiptoeing through the lava and blowing on our special boots to cool them down until we eventually reached China. It was such fun. I am with the boys this Friday. I wonder what the next story will be. Can't wait!
A big "thank you" to Fliss and I just thought I was going to another children's show:)