Story-telling for schools

Open the story-box and choose a story . . . 

Oral story telling is a rich and valuable way to educate and entertain, encouraging imagination and visualisation from the audience while increasing speaking and listening skills and taking them on a journey into values and mysteries.

Story-box performances with Tom Skylark (Andy) begin with a child from the audience choosing the story to be told by selecting an object from the treasure box.

Our stories can be anything from a straight forward solo oral tellings to more involved performances, using costumes, props, puppets and audience participation, as the story and the setting demand.

Stories can be told to a small group, a class or an audience of three hundred people.

WishWorks use a blend of original and traditional stories. Our performers make them alive and vibrant, capturing the audience and leading them into an interactive and multi-sensory world of images and ideas.

Whatever the format, a Wishworks Story Telling session is a magical theatrical event.

Given enough notice we can write new stories on a chosen theme or search out existing ones from our extensive library of story books. We can also create shadow puppet shows for any tale.

Themes for story sessions covered by WishWorks include Creation Myths, marine themes, animals/woodland theme and fairy tales but storytelling can be catered to your venue or event.

Below is a selection of our favourite stories. We know many more.

Traditional tales:

  • The King of Winter (from Russia)
  • Baba Yaga the witch (from Russia)
  • Tatter-coats (a Grim's tale)
  • Jack and the beanstalk
  • Nail soup
  • Perseus and the Gorgon
  • Theseus and the Minotaur

We also have several puppet-led fairy tales which are retellings of traditional fairy tales such as Snow White and Rapunzel. In these shows a naughty puppet interrupts the story and adds or changes parts so that he/she can be in it. Selected children can also dress up and join in with the show.

Original stories:

  • The Magic Box (gives you anything you want- but lots of people want IT)
  • The Brave Little Dog (A puppet story based on an English folk tale)
  • Jasper the snow boy (an original reworking of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Snowman)
  • The magic Christmas cracker (An original christmas story involving puppets and lots of audience participation)
  • Grimdyke the Giant (An original tale based on Jack the Giant Killer)
  • The Selfish Giant (a secular shadow puppet adaptation of the Oscar Wilde story)

Especially for younger children:

  • The fox and the badger (An original puppet story for ages 2-6)
  • The brave little dog (A puppet story for ages 3-7)

A teacher at a primary school in Brighton expressed amazement that a child with ADD had sat enthralled throughout a creation myths storytelling session. When she approached the child he replied “well, it was a good story!

A very big thank you for all your hard work. I was told by so many people how fantastic your shows were and I could hear from the childrens reaction that you provided some really brilliant entertainment for them- and the adults! Im really hoping that you come back next year. Thanks for your patience and flexibility and generous contribution in providing some top entertainment for everyoneLisa Westoff, Festival of Jim

Why are stories important?

Children are natural story tellers, they tell stories with their toys and in their games long before they tell them with words, and absorb stories into their imaginations long before they can read and write them.

Much of the current educational theory about literacy says that children learn to read and write far more easily if they already know a lot of stories. It seems that the stories they learn in their early years act as a template or framework upon which they can place the more abstract notions of written language. The more stories that children hear, the better, and the more children learn to play with and innovate around these stories, the better.

The importance of stories goes far beyond literacy. Children gravitate toward a good story like iron to a magnet because they know, instinctively, that stories feed something in our souls. Adults know this too, whether we admit it or not. We are drawn to films, books and T.V. programs that speak to our deep aspirations, fears and desires.   Good stories act upon us in this way because they put us in touch with the world of the Archetypes - deeply rooted symbolic figures that are shared by all human cultures. The Hero/Heroine in a fairy tale is an archetype, as is the Wise Teacher who helps them or the Dragon or Wicked Witch who they must outwit.

Archetypes are everywhere in stories. Take Goldilocks, for example. At first sight, it might seem to be a simple child's tale with no great significance, but if you look deeper, there is much more to be found.

Goldilocks is a very old story and its central character embodies one of the most important archetypes, that of the Trickster. Hermes in Greek mythology is a Trickster, as are Loki in Norse legends or Coyote in Native American stories (there are many more). In Goldilocks, the little girl appears on the scene and does all sorts of crazy things; eating up the bears' porridge, breaking the chair and falling asleep in the bears' beds. Goldilocks can be told as cautionary tale - behave nicely or the bears will come and eat you! But that is not the true point of the story; Goldilocks is more than simply naughty - she is a trickster; outside of convention and unbound by rules.

Child or adult, rules are an inevitable and necessary part of our lives, but when we get over attached to them, our lives begin to narrow down, we become inflexible in our opinions, lose our sense of curiosity, playfulness and spontaneity. The Trickster's role is to shake us out of our consensus trance and remind us how to laugh at ourselves, how to be outrageous, to see the world from a fresh perspective and live more fully in the present moment.

The Trickster is all about freedom and one of the magical things about hearing a good Trickster story is that it can give us the same sense of release that we might get if we were breaking the rules ourselves - without us having to sneak into the three bears' house, smash up the furniture and steal their porridge!

Every good story has something like this at its heart - a signpost to a deeper truth that helps us to feel more alive.