The Ugly Duckling or the Strange Grey Duckling

Yesterday at work, some children were unkind to another child with the standard ‘ I  don’t want to be your friend’ line, which is hurtful. A standard adult response is ‘We are all friends here’ but we know this to be untrue. However, ‘We all try to be friendly here’ rings a truer bell and can be followed through with more success. After this conversation, a student and I looked through a great basket of books labelled ‘Friendship and feelings’ which was on the centre shelf. We found a few good ones and I wondered about telling the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’, and said I would do it as a prop supported story the next day.
When I got home, I  had second thoughts because the original  is hugely long. Then I read a comment about it from wikipedia which made  me wonder if it were an appropriate story after all.

Bruno Bettelheim observes in The Uses of Enchantment that the Ugly Duckling is not confronted with the tasks, tests, or trials of the typical fairy tale hero. “No need to accomplish anything is expressed in “The Ugly Duckling”. Things are simply fated and unfold accordingly, whether or not the hero takes some action.” In conjunction with Bettelheim’s assessment, Maria Tatar notes in ’’The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen’’ that Andersen suggests the Ugly Duckling‘s superiority resides in the fact that he is of a breed different from the barnyard rabble, and that dignity and worth, moral and aesthetic superiority are determined by nature rather than accomplishment.[1]   Not cool.

A third reservation arose when I thought about the word ‘ugly’. This word does not appear to be in the vocabulary of most four and five year olds wherever I have worked, and I certainly don’t  want to be responsible for introducing such an insidious and cruel form of unkindness. So even the title had to be changed to ‘The Grey duckling’.. (more…)

The power of storytelling

Bushman story telling 598538_458762074163107_2100115031_n




The power of storytelling

(click on title to view)

This poster  demonstrates, in a  very simple form,  some of the practical applications which I cover. Exploring ways to support children to create their own  written and illustrated story is really almost another session, but inevitably each workshop touches on all the various aspects and is, in any case,  designed to meet your specific needs. Some centres really want to learn more about the theoretical justifications for oral storytelling and others want to dive straight into the practice and have a go at being a storyteller.

Sleeping Beauty with toothbrushes and playdough

Oral literacy and people ‘puppets’ made at the playdough table with the children after hearing the story of Sleeping Beauty’. There was a magnificent selection of loose parts made available by the teachers….. stones, pipe cleaners and toothbrushes!! and cinnamon play dough. Also a great example of a practice to encourage oral literacy. Descriptions and explanations are by the photos as you go through.

I made this when I sat down and was soon joined by a group of children. it is the castle and the entrance. Oh yes, the little sprigs of hebe were there too…….such terrifically imaginative and versatile bits and pieces.!


What was lovely to observe was the way a particular boy imitated the way I moved the king and queen around, all the time keeping up a conversation between them. Alas, I cannot remember it all!! but I loved it and he was a very versatile, articulate and cooperative ‘player’ who picked up ‘offers’ and accepted and then built on them. (more…)