Saturday 16 March 2019

Learning from Children by Claire Fayers

I don’t have children or close family with kids so most of the year I’m trapped in a world of adult conversation where I rely on friends’ children to keep me on my toes. This time of year is a special treat for me – the chance to visit schools and talk to hundreds of children in the space of a few weeks. This year, the schools have been especially welcoming. I walked into several to see displays like this one.

I will often start my sessions with some improvised story-telling. We decide where the story is going to happen, I pull a couple of children out to role-play the characters and then we see how long we can keep the story going.

It can be a little risky. You never quite know what's going to happen. One child might freeze with stage-fright and refuse to speak. Another will talk without pause and you have to cut in to give other people a chance. You may need to prompt with questions to get the story moving. (You're in a spaceship - what do you see?) The main challenge is to keep the story, and the group, under control with 20+ children yelling ideas at you. 

As usual this March, the results were weird and wonderful. A group of aliens on the moon found a robot covered in coloured buttons; a psychopath stalked a girl on a deserted beach and as he was about to kill her she vanished; a boy received a giant parcel containing Big Ben.

A bit of exaggerated acting helps, especially if you're bad at it. 

The children will usually join in - the dancing moon robots of Shrewsbury were a sight to behold.

I love the chaotic creativity that can happen when there are no rules, no need to worry about writing anything down or getting the words right. Children come up with the most fantastic ideas and will throw anything into a story to see what happens. 

A teacher asked me if I ever use any of the children’s ideas. My answer was no. They are not my ideas, not my stories to tell. But I really hope the children will write them. And I hope I can channel their creativity next time I'm working on a new draft.

Finally, the questions

Every session has to end with a Q&A, and improvised storytelling is good practice for this as you have to make up your answers very quickly. 

As well as the usual questions (‘How old are you?’, ‘How much do you earn?’) I had two interested ones I'd never been asked before:

How do you end a story?
Why do you write about children?

I'd be interested to know other people's answer to those.

1 comment:

Susan Price said...

How do I end a story? With enormous difficulty. And gnashing of teeth.