Storytelling at Muswell Hill Primary school

Story Boat sailed all the way to Muswell Hill Primary school just before the end of the summer term.  I had a wonderful morning, performing oral storytelling with their Year 1 and  2 classes.

Wendy storytelling at Muswell Hill Primary School
Wendy setting the forest scene at Muswell Hill Primary school

Whilst waiting for everyone to come into my session, I had an opportunity to talk to the Year 1 class about their favourite stories and characters.  All of the children were enthusiastic and couldn’t wait to ask me the name of one of my favourite stories and authors.  When I replied with Roald Dahl’s ‘The Enormous Crocodile’, it was met with much agreement and an explosion of chatter about tricky characters!

Setting the scene

This led on seamlessly to my story for that morning which was about how the trickster Anancy the spider claimed all of the stories in the forest.  Having carefully selected the forest habitat theme to match one of their curriculum topics, I began my session by playing some atmospheric forest sounds on my iPod.  This helped the class immediately settle as they were taken on an imaginary adventure into the forest with me.

Adapting a story for oral storytelling

There are a  couple of versions of this story.  One where Anancy the spider is set 3 different challenges by the Sky God, another by author Peggy Appiah in her children’s classic ‘Tales of An Ashanti Father, where Anancy is set one challenge to capture the python.  My story is adapted from Philip Sherlock’s version where Anancy lays 3 different traps to capture snake alive in order to win the stories from Tiger.  This versions works really well for children during oral storytelling.  At Muswell Hill Primary school, I was able to let children take turns in suggesting ideas as part of the story plot.

Wendy holding a bamboo stick
Wendy using a bamboo stick as part of the Anancy story.

A Year 2 class came up with some brilliant  ideas to capture snake using a spider web, mangoes, and a deep pit.  Thinking quickly on my feet, I managed to incorporate all of their ideas, whilst still directing the story to it’s inevitable end!  I loved seeing their faces light up, as their ideas and recommendations for creating the setting, was woven into the story.  At one point, I chose a couple of volunteers to turn into the animals of their choice, whilst they held a bamboo stick to measure the length of snake.  Not wanting to leave out the rest of the class, I encouraged them to chant with me as we imagined ‘snake stretching against the length of the bamboo stick.  Everyone roared with me “STRETCH SNAKE STRETCH“.  It was lots of fun and the teachers gave me some lovely feedback about how much their classes enjoyed the sessions.