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Malaysia International Storytelling Festival 2011 (Day 1)

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The MISF Booklet

When? 9 – 10th Sept 2011
Where? Sunway International School (SIS), Selangor Darul Ehsan.
What time? 9.30am – 4.30pm

The night before MISF, my hubby and I were at The Lion King Musical in Singapore (it was spectacular!), which ended at about 10.45pm. Right after that, we rushed back to my aunt’s place, got all our bags into the car, then headed back to Kuala Lumpur and reached at about 4.30am. That morning itself I had to attend MISF. So, you can say, I was half awake when the workshop started.
I decided to attend Roger’s session since I didn’t get the chance in Singapore. I was quite interested in the topic too, because I teach as well, but turned out this is more appropriate for older students. But I still got something out of it 😉
10th September 2011: The Stories Every Student Needs to Know (And How to Tell Them) by Roger Jenkins
Roger started the workshop with ‘The Crocodile and Sister Hen’ and my, did I enjoy it! I loved the way he told it as it included participation from the listeners, some sign-languages and hand gestures involved. His facial expressions made the story even more hilarious. Moral of the story? We’re all the same; we’re all brothers and sisters, so treat each other with respect. No bullying, no derogatory comments, and definitely no eating! 😀
Roger & Boys role-playing a story

In the next session, Roger got two participants from the crowd. If I’m not mistaken, both were students from SIS and got them to role-play in the next story about two friends fighting over a packet of Oreos, each claiming he saw the Oreos first, so it was his. Roger told both of them what to say in each part and the students, very amazingly, dramatized and acted out the scene perfectly! The boys really got into character. I had fun watching. The story ended with a teacher (Roger) asking them the colour of paper he was holding (One side was black, the other was white) So the person standing on one side, would only see the colour he sees. So the boys argued that the paper is the colour they saw. Then Roger asked them to switch places, then the boys realized the other party was right. An interesting way to learn ‘perspective/point of view’, might be a little complicated for younger learners though.

Roger telling the extended version of The Hare and The Tortoise

Next, he told ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’. This was fun. Might tell it to my students 🙂 Some of you might have heard of these versions before. After the race has ended, the hare realized his mistake, so he challenged the tortoise to another race. Learning from his mistake, the hare won the race this time. No doubt slow and steady is good, but fast and steady is even better!

Being the ever-confident hare, he decided to race with the tortoise again, allowing the tortoise to choose the track, because he got bored with the old track. When they raced, the hare came upon a river and was dumbfounded because he didn’t know how to swim. He panicked and decided to take a different route, while the tortoise, who loved swimming, calmly swam across it. The tortoise won the race in the end. This part, the listeners should learn that one should identify their strengths and use them to their full potential. In the final part, the hare and tortoise became friends and decided to compete in a marathon. They made use of each other’s strengths and won the competition!

After this session, we adjourned to a different room where we did some role-play activity. With a partner, we were asked to pick a story and tell it in different ways – a first person point of view, using only actions, very simple English to someone from China who has limited vocab, put the story in a different time and location, tell it very enthusiastically and tell it like you’ve told it a thousand times. This can be quite a fun class activity; very adaptable to different types of lessons too.

When we returned to our classroom, Roger told us some stories we could tell our students and showed us a list of them. Click here to get the list.

Dr. Wajuppa Tossa opens with 2 traditional songs

Riddle Stories – Creative Storytelling by Dr. Wajuppa Tossa
I find this session interesting and would love to apply this in my lesson. I know my students will love it 🙂 What I’ve learnt is that, any stories can be turned into a riddle story. It’s just a matter of turning a certain part of the story into a question or a problem to be solved.  Here were some of the riddle stories Dr. Wajuppa told us.

The Three Friends (the elephant, monkey and bird) (Great for pre-school), The Nine Bamboo Clumps (Some calculations are involved. Appropriate for 12 and above) and the Rich Man who seeks a Daughter-In-Law (for older audience).

Then we were asked to solve some riddle stories. Out of the list she gave, we picked 6 stories – One Cookie (from Europe), All is Mine, Serving Giant (from Laos), The Magic Stick (India), Bird in Hand (India) and Guilty Stone (China). It’s interesting to see the different answers given in some of the stories, as I like learning a different person’s point of view, or way of looking at life/a story, and how they derive at that answer.

After that mind-boggling session, we were then asked to turn a story we know into a riddle story. Our group decided to pick the story of The Golden Swan. Upon deciding the ‘riddle’, we then chose a storyteller to present the story. Unanimously, we picked the youngest 😉 And she did really well!

Attentive participants

The art of turning a story to a riddle story? Simple! Either leave the ending open or pick the highlight of the story, then ask why or how. If you want to add another question, just ask your listener to guess its title. This would be fun if you’ve got a funny title or a title that plays with words.

Although totally knackered after the workshops, I left feeling excited about preparing for my future storytelling sessions. I also attended the showcase that was held tonight from 8pm – 10.30pm.

If you’d like to see more pictures from MISF 2011, you can find me on Facebook (Jee Wan).

Click here for Day 2 🙂


The Musical Fart

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I read this real-life (I think?) story from a friend’s Facebook (FB) post, and it really made my day. And I hope it’d brighten your day too 🙂

“I was in Starbucks recently when I suddenly realized I desperately needed to fart. The music was really, really loud so I timed my fart with the beat of the music. After a couple of songs I started to feel better. I finished my coffee and noticed that everyone was staring at me! And suddenly I remembered I was listening to my ipod…”

I shared this story with some of my friends just to make them smile. And they did! You and I know a smile can do wonders right 😉

Moral of the story? Don’t fart in public! Haha!

Go on, make someone smile or laugh today! 🙂


911 – The 10th Anniversary

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I’m sure we can all remember September 911. I thought of sharing what I found on FB with all of you. These are stories to be shared with everyone. Forever. As they teach us about how fragile life is and how adversity can strengthen/change us.

Of all the 4 videos that I saw, this story touched my heart deeply as it reminds me again how important it is for us to treasure our loved ones. Always tell them we love them. Show them how much they mean to us through our words and actions.

Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 35,000 interviews from more than 70,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. For more information on what they do, click here.

Singapore International Storytelling Festival (Day 2)

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Day 2: 3 Sept 2011 of SISF (Continuation from Day 1)
Yet again, we were spoilt for choices. We had to choose between Ruth’s Storymaking with Young People, Lilli’s Improvised Stories and Abbi’s La Maison de Conte: Transmission and Research (sharing session). If only I could clone myself or split myself in 3! Being the ever loyal me, I chose Lilli’s Improvised Stories because I liked her workshop yesterday, and I liked her style of conducting one.

Lilli & Me @ SISF 2011

Improvised Stories by Lillian Rodrigues-Pang
The first half of the session was about ‘Yes, And’. This game is popular drama activity among thespians. How is it done? Well, first, the facilitator of this activity would start with a sentence or two. Then when he/she ends, the next person would need to say ‘Yes…and…’ follow by his/her sentence or two that continues from the facilitator’s ‘introduction’. And it continues until the story has an ‘ending’. The rule of this story is not to ‘kill off’ anything mid way, and allow every person to have a chance to develop the ‘story/idea’. The whole concept of this game is to allow each individual to learn to accept ideas and concept offered by another person.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Hmm…not when the story reaches an interesting point, and you tell yourself, ‘Ok, the next person better say this, so that I can continue with THIS (YOUR idea).’ But of course, the following person had a different idea, and says something totally different from what you were thinking. And bam! There goes YOUR idea of YOUR beautiful story. So the challenge would be, to ACCEPT what has been given to you, EMBRACE it, and MOVE ON 🙂 And that’s how one should approach life too. When life throws you lemons, make lemonade 😉

The second part of the session is even more challenging (for me at least). We were divided into 6 groups, and each group was given a slip of paper that had 2-3 sentences. These sentences are part of a story. Our task is to continue the story, but with a different storyline, which means we weren’t supposed to know what the original story was about. Each of us had 2 minutes to tell our own version of the story. My team had one about 2 children who lost their parents and had to fend for themselves by fishing for oysters. It was set in an unheard-of place (I can’t even remember the name now). Man, it was tough! I thought I couldn’t do it. And 2 minutes FELT SO LONG! But applying ‘Yes, and’, I embraced the challenge. My story was about the brother sought help from an old man who lived right at the end of the beach. I didn’t manage to end the story in 2 minutes though 😦 Some of my other team members came up with some very interesting stories 🙂

After lunch, we had to choose between Sherry & Bobby’s The Moral of the Story, Sheila’s Telling Together: Interactive Storytelling for Children with Special Needs and Dr. Gideon & Kamini’s Happily Ever After: Using Stories to Help Adolescents Meet Life’s Challenges. I chose Bobby & Sherry’s workshop.

Bobby & Me @ SISF 2011

The Moral of the Story: Character Education through Storytelling by Sherry and Bobby Norfolk
In this workshop, Bobby performed 2 stories. He started with a story about Baby Hawk who wants to learn how to fly. Following that, was a brief discussion on how we could use this kind of story on the first day of school, to tell children the positive behaviours we expect of them.

To further discuss the point, they randomly distributed printed copies of some popular fables.  We were asked to read it, and try to identify the moral of the story, then share it with the others (who didn’t get a copy). When we were done, we were to exchange that story with another person so we could all have a chance to read another story. Getting us all to exchange stories this way, would take up time and it was a big audience. I felt this part wasn’t properly managed. It would have been better if there were already printouts that listed those popular fables and the moral of the story at the end of the discussion. This way, the participants can keep them for reference.

Bobby then performed The Lewis & Clark Expedition, telling it through the eyes of York, William Clark’s slave, who was the only African-American member of the “Corps of Discovery”. It’s very different seeing history ‘told’ this way. Definitely more engaging than reading straight from the sleep-inducing history books!

How I felt about the SIFF 2011 overall? This being my first and that I’ve got no other storytelling festivals to compare it to, I’d say this is an awe-inspiring experience, and I can’t wait to put some of the techniques I’ve learnt into practice.

But if I were to compare this to the recent Asian Festival of Children’s Content, SISF wins this hands down. AFCC 2011 was quite a disappointment for me. I felt some speakers weren’t even fully prepared.

I’d also be attending the inaugural Malaysian International Storytelling Festival this weekend. You can read more about it here. Am really looking forward to it 🙂

Singapore International Storytelling Festival 2011 (Day 1)

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Bobby Norfolk on the front cover of the SISF booklet

Let me start this blog with a post on my very first storytelling festival which I’ve attended in Singapore recently. It’s called the Singapore International Story Telling Festival (SISF). If you’ve not heard of SISF, it’s a gathering of great storytellers from around the world who come to explore the many manifestations of storytelling, and how it can be used as an aid to learning in education. This year, we had the honour of listening stories told by Sherri and Bobby Norfolk (Bobby is the one in the picture on the left) from USA, Ruth Kirkpatrick, Abbi Patrix from France, Randel McGee & Groark (his witty, green dragon) from USA, Roger Jenkins, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang from Australia, Beatriz Montero from Spain, Dr. Gideon Arulmani from India, and Kamini Ramacandran and Sheila Wee from Singapore.

The festival was held from 1 – 5 September. I attended the workshops on the 3rd and 4th. Every morning, there was ‘Storytime’, when a storyteller would perform/tell a story for 15 minutes. On both mornings, we had the honour of listening to Kamini and Sheila. They were wonderful and I loved how they delivered their stories – simple, calming and soothing. Sheila’s very graceful and elegant, totally the opposite of Lillian (Lilli) and Beatriz who were more theatrical, though I could relate better to Beatriz and Lilli’s way of storytelling.

After Storytime and Keynote, we adjourned to our respective areas for the chosen workshops. As there were 3 workshops running concurrently in one time slot (11am – 1pm), we had to choose 1 out of the 3. Today, we had to choose between Randel McGee’s 1000 Voices Speaking Perfectly Loud, Sherry & Bobby Norfolk’s Helping Struggling Readers: How Storytelling Can Make A Difference and Ruth Kirkpatrick’s Storymaking with Children with Special Needs: A Different Point of View. Tough choice, huh? 😦 So. I decided on….Randel McGee’s workshop, because I can’t wait to meet GROARK! (Sorry Randel hehe :P)

1000 Voices Speaking Perfectly Loud!

1000 Voices Speaking Perfectly Loud by Randel McGee, 11am – 1pm
This workshop basically introduces the techniques of using the vocal chords and other speech makers to produce a variety of character voices and sound effects to add excitement and colour to your storytelling presentations. In this workshop, I learnt that the important things to look out for in using character voices are: pitch, speed (the higher the speed, the higher the pitch), volume, age and size. These are also the natural factors that affect our speech. Whereas, the learned factors are breath control, accent, culture and vocabulary. And of course, to master these, you need to practice, practice and practice!

Useful tips: Visualise the image of your character, as it’d help set your vocal focus. If you don’t have one, try visualising a cartoon character you’re familiar with and use it as a reference. When possible, try use vocal nuances to express emotions instead of words.

What made this session more interesting was that one of the participants brought a puppet with her, and asked Randel if he could help give this puppet a character (refer to picture with the orange puppet on the right). I was amazed by how Randel handled it. He looked at it, touched it, played with it, and in no time, made it come alive! (I’m not exaggerating) Suddenly, that puppet has A CHARACTER. He could even make it ‘look’ old, by just changing its voice, speed of speech and motion. Great stuff!

Tada! The Princess & The Pea!

Then he told us the story of the Princes and the Pea while cutting a black piece of paper. When coming to the end of the story, voila! The plain black piece of paper, became a cut-out of the princess, the pea and the layers and layers of mattresses! Brilliant, isn’t he??

For the second session (3 – 5pm) after lunch, we had to choose between Roger Jenkins’s Interact and Bond with Children with Special Needs using Simple Storytelling Techniques, Beatriz Montero’s Storytelling for Babies and Toddlers and Lillian Rodrigues-Pang’s Culture, Language and Your Stories. I chose the last one.

Culture, Language and Your Stories by Lillian Rodrigues-Pang, 3pm – 5pm
Culture, Language and Your Stories

I love Lillian’s workshops (I attended both of them. Another one the next day. More on that later in my next post). She came with lots of knowledge and experience to share. She started off this workshop with a story, set in West Africa, about The Hat Seller named BaMusa, who learnt his first ‘business’ lesson from a few monkeys who stole his hat. This story, if read directly would be very plain. But Lilli made it more interesting by dramatizing it and adding repeated phrases using a song, which we could all sing together. Then she showed us how she could use this story and set it in Mexico.

Her suggestion on things to look out for when you want to take a story and put it in a location you want:
* Body language and gestures of your character from that country
* Accent/slang of course
* Country (What’s it famous for? Fruits? Icons? Celebrities?)
* Location (Where exactly? Is there anything there your audience could identify with? Is there anything you could engage them with?)
* Song (A famous song which you could use to introduce a few new words?)
 I’ll share more after I’ve received the email which Lilli will send once she’s done compiling all the notes. Isn’t she sweet? 🙂
I’ll write part 2 for Day 2 of the festival in my next post. This is waaaaay too long for one post! Haha