Last November, I finished reading Phillip Pullman’s Book of Dust. Wow, I was swept up in the storms and flooding of Oxford and thrilled with reading about the early days of Lyra, 15 years after first picking up the Amber Spyglass. I was pleased, I had had a good run of books, before Book of Dust, I had read Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest book, Here I am and re read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for the twelfth time.
I thought about the books that I wasn’t reading. The majority of the books I have read have always been written by white, men. Here I was, trying to throw myself into other worlds. Worlds as varied as the last few books I had read and yet I wasn’t challenging myself to read work written by other, not enough. So I decided to challenge myself to only read books by anyone other than white men. Six months in, I am more excited about reading than I ever had been. I have time travelled along the Indus, with Alice Albinia and trapped between the pages of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. I have been haunted by the language of Nikita Gill’s Wild Embers. I have commuted with short stories and essays from Chinua Achebe, Betty Friedan and Dorothy Parker (Penguin Modern Classics, £1 a book). I uncovered the history of the women and their voices with Mary Beard and am currently lost in 1970’s America with Joan Didion in her collection The White Album. These are just some of my highlights.
However, I have had to break the rules. Normally when it came to do with work. Storytelling and folklore theory have tripped me up and I have had to read books that where edited, collected or written by white men. Women are present in this scene, but seminal works belong to white men – clue in that adjective.
Generally this challenge has been really fulfilling and exciting and I currently have a shelf full of books that are still waiting to be read. I am always looking for recommendations, what do you suggest?
I have been working with Z-Arts and Crumpsall Lane Primary School in Manchester, creating story telling pieces for the schools reception class. Its been really wonderful and tomorrow we go into our third week of the project based on the collections of Brother’s Grimm, and this week we are looking at Little Red Riding Hood or as Bro
ther’s Grimm called Little Red Cap.
This story has been re told and re told and re told, and I have a strong suspicion that the children will be very familiar with it. I think that each week they have bought there own colour and magic to the stories we have looked at (Musicians of Bremen and Hansel and Gretel.) That is why working with these traditional stories is such a gift because they can be re told in so many different ways. As a story teller, I love the immediacy of the retelling. The audience being very active in shaping how the story looks and feels. These stories are so beautifully simple but it is quite easy to overlook them.
I also provide lesson plans in arts crafts for further exploration of these stories in the class in the week that follows. I’d thought I’d pass on one of the craft exercises in this weeks lesson plan. You can never have too many resources available!
First things first, copy the above template for each of the components in the mask and cut them out. I made the mistake of putting it all together before I coloured it in, which made it much harder to build, the above image is on an A4 piece of paper. You could print it directly onto card if you’d prefer. An extra task for the children , could be to draw around pre cut provided templates and see if they could get them to fit it onto a sheet of A4 card.
The decorating is worth spending time on as the masks look so much better as a result. I kept my decoration very simple and only used felt tip, but I think the mask would come alive even further with some fake fur or felt or if the teeth were very shiny….
Stick the front and the back thin pieces together. I used masking tape to stick the pieces together, that way I can adjust easily to the circumference of head that is resting on. I then
took the nose piece and folded along each of the dotted lines.
I attached part one, by folding over the top of the front piece of headband in the middle of the ears and secured with tape.
I then attached the mouth piece behind section 2 of the nose and then the tongue behind the mouth.
Nice and straight forward. Now you can howl at the moon and be big, bad and scary!
This is the first of a series of short blogs that will introduce folk to new ideas/ exercises about their voice.
Good articulation needs strength, flexibility and calm! The fluffing of words or tripping over our sentences when we nervous are a good sign to your articulation needing improvement.
The Soft palette is like the unseen articulator as it is right at the back of your mouth. The palette is the roof of your mouth. Its in divided into two areas. The hard palette which has almost no give and the soft palette which is a fleshy bit of tissue. Improving flexibility in the soft palette will not only improve articulations but it will also help with colour and cadence in the voice. Opera Singers have incredibly flexible soft palettes and Beat boxers can achieve amazing sounds through clicks and tongue placement using their soft palette
If you make a ‘k’ sound you can feel the back of your tongue raising to meet the roof of you mouth, but what you may not feel is that your soft palette is also coming down to form this closure the ‘k’ sound is made when this join comes apart like a tiny explosion. In fact ‘k’ is a sound belonging to a group on consonants called plosives.
So if you repeat a ‘k’ sound your are working the two articulators -your tongue and your soft palette. ‘g’ is made in exactly the same way but this time in stead of the sound being carried out solely on air. The vocal folds come engaged and their is now sound with it.
Play is a significant part of who we are as people. In fact, it is through play that humans are wired to learn. I love playing. I could play all day. I love games and songs and stories and dancing and make believe. Make believe is the best part of everything ever. But why is pretending to be a golden unicorn with ambitions to be the World Salsa Champion deemed as less then being a Doctor or a Engineer or a Fiscal Officer? I can see the significance of these roles in our society and I am not disputing their worth. They are in the hierarchy of professions though. They use our brains, in a way that we can quantify with money. Play is nothing in the face of medicine, technologies and finances. How have we got here? There are plenty of great thinkers who thought and still think today that play is an essential part of our make up. People at the top of the game in STEM subjects are saying that play is important part of innovation and discovery. However even if I was the best person at pretending to be a golden unicorn with ambitions to be a World Salsa Champion and I mean the BEST, I still wouldn’t be taken serious because make believe and play? Well that’s just for kids!
Kenneth R. Ginsberg writes on behalf of the American Academy of Paediatrics, outlining some of the ways that Play is important:-
“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.”
(Kenneth R. Ginsberg, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182)
Most of us have a good understanding of the importance of play in our children’s lives. We look at the opportunities that we can present them with. We hear the generations above us groan about kids being kept indoors, playing endlessly at video games and watching rubbish on iPads while at the same time managing to do Dancing on Monday, Choir on Tuesday, Art on Wednesday, Spanish on Thursday, Football on a Friday night and then Mindful-tots on a Saturday morning. So our kids are either doing too much or not enough??
Ginsberg talks about both of these things in his article and tells us that Parents are being fed ‘carefully marketed messages’ that children need every chance to be their best through parents buying a variety of toys and materials and making sure their children go to a range of activitities. Parents are not only being told that this is good for their child, they are also being told that this is the definition of a good parent.
It’s hard though, to work out what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘good’ and ‘bad’. After all we are all new to it. We’ve not done it before. We’re sleep deprived. It seems to be working for others and don’t get me wrong some children do completely thrive in a bustling week. These classes are structured and adult led. There is normally no element of free play. The kind where kids play shop, or mermaids. Or have an afternoon tea party with their teddies or get to be the fastest footballer on the planet or the bravest explorer.
Free play that is child driven is essential to the development of negotiation skills and an opportunity for children to discover what they are interested in. For many adults, play is something done by those mini adults that walk around copying every gesture, phrase or grimace that we do. Play seems hard. We know all the rules. We have all the answers. We have pressures on our time to keep the ship running smoothly. We have an idea and we suggest it to our children and then what?
We all just have to be careful about why we are setting up activities for our children. What might we be missing out on by keeping everyone busy and on the move. Our children need it yes, but we, the parents need it too. We need time to learn about our children’s likes and dislikes, we need to learn how to socialise and share and negotiate. We need time to cool off and unwind. Our children need to see us do this so that they do it too. Finding our love and comfort in free play is as necessary for our children to witness, as our children doing it in the first place. Our kids won’t see the point in it if we don’t.
So playing? Playing is more than stuff for kids. We need to let our children play freely and get on board with them. Let them decide the rules. If you’re not sure what that entirely means, I want to take you back in time to the late 80s in the Goodman household. There we all are: Big sister (7), big brother (5) and I (3) in the fun loving hands of our favourite babysitter -Wendy. We are wearing a rainbow of shell suits. We’d just finished watching the Never Ending Story on BBC 2.
Big Sister: Let's play a game.
Big Brother: Yeah, let's play a game.
Me: I know a game.
Big Sister: Really?
Big Brother: Bet you don't.
Me: I do.
Big Brother: No, you don't.
Me: Yes, I do.
Big Brother: No.
Big Sister: What is it then?
Big Sister: What's the rules?
Me: Whoever jumps the highest wins.
Big Brother and Big Sister exchange a look.
Big Brother: Fine. I'll go first.
He jumps. Big Sister jumps. I climb on the sofa.
Big Sister: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU CHEATER!!
Me: I never said that I couldn't jump off something.
Big Brother: Fine then, I will jump off this chair. And be higher then you.
Big Sister: What? Why not?
Me: THOSE AREN'T THE RULES.
Big Sister: What? Those are different rules for you then us.
Big Brother: Well that's not fair.
Me: (With as much 3 year old sass as I can muster) Well, its MY game. So it's MY rules.
Big Sister: Then I'm not playing.
Big Brother and Big Sister leave
As irritating as this must have been for my older siblings (they have never let me live this one down), that is what child led play would look like. Let your child invent new stories where there is the same line about a big fat pig running down your trousers in every other sentence. In fact, encourage it. Get them to tell you how things work. Enjoy them sticking 23 dinosaur stickers in exactly the same position, or pour out the glue so the paper disappears. This is them playing. Hang out with them and accept what they are offering. The world that will open up for you both will be a truly magical one. One where a golden unicorn gets to Salsa.
Felicity Goodman in a Voice Teacher, Playologist and Storyteller in Manchester, U.K. To find out more about her work please visit felicitygoodman.co.uk