A couple of sensory stories

Hi there again…

Fresh from my day of music and storytelling sessions I thought I would share a couple of stories with you. My version of the Gunpowder Plot Story, which we worked on for the past couple of weeks and and The Highwayman story that I created today.

The Gunpowder Plot story I have to say thanks to the people on Joanna Grace’s Facebook page who shared their stories and ideas for Bonfire Night sensory storytelling. The Highway Man was a bit last minute today as needed to fill in with a story last minute. So I could call it my ten minute Highway Man story… gather what props you can and random props you have with you. I got most of the ideas from when Keith Park, Emmie Ward, Coralie Oddy and I did our Great North Wood Storytelling – The Highwaymen (and women) was one of our themes. But both were sort of creating the story around props I already had. Thanks Emmie for a few of those on display in the tweeted pic 🙂

The Gunpowder Plot

  • Now we gather around the fire and remember, remember the 5th of November! (fire on ipad and candle scent)
  • bonfireA long time ago In 1605, there was man called Guy Fawkes. (chime)
  • A long time ago In 1605, there was a King called James 1. King James was not very popular with Guy and and his friends. They were annoyed about the King and his government. (Wear crown and say ‘no we don’t like you!’ but can also say we don’t like you as King but we like you as …. say their name)
  • So, Guy Fawkes and his friends decided to have a plot, the gunpowder plot. They wanted to blow up the parliament. (Popping candy on hand/eat)
  • They filled 36 barrels with gunpowder! They planted them under the cellars of the Houses of Parliament – ready for a big explosion. (Cedar wood scent for barrels) (can emphasise the secret through quiet voice)
  • However, there was a traitor in the group! One of Guy Fawkes friends! He got worried about all the people who would get blown up. He sent a letter to his friend warning him! (Big Ben chimes on Big Mac)
  • So the police, the guards of parliament arrived – on their horses (clip clop) they went down the stairs (walking sound) and crept slowly (shhhh) and….. bang! The plot was rumbled! The plotters were arrested, tortured and executed. (Bang on the drum)
  • Now we sit and remember remember the 5th of November. We light a bonfire (fire on iPad and bonfire scent candle)
  • And sit and watch fireworks (fireworks torch and sounds or app)
  • Then go home for a nice cup of tea (have a cup of tea/tea break)


The Highwayman

It was Autumn in the woods and the leaves were gently falling

(leaves in a basket – can handle them or drop them on people/the floor)

The leaves were red, yellow, orange, green, brown

(say whatever colours you find – show the colours – can spread them between different people rather than person by person)

Animals were looking for food and the wind was rustling in the trees

(rainmaker or shaker or similar sound)

There was a damp smell in the wood – after the rain

(cedarwood or similar smell – it sounds a bit like the musty leaves, but you could also get musty leaves)

Then suddenly!! The sound of horses hooves

(clapping sticks/pieces of wood – we have some round slices of wood – we had enough for everyone to make the sound who wanted to – we also sung ‘Horsy Horsy don’t you stop because it is a favourite song of one of the people in the session)

It was a carriage with wheels going around!

(rolled hoop – saying ‘and the hoop rolled past….’ And gave a chance to push if people wanted – if not you can find anything that goes around as a visual stimuli)

There were rich people inside the carriage, enjoying looking at their jewels and money

(glass nuggets, money, or anything jewel like – we had a lot of baskets to hand so I handed a basket to everyone and then put the nuggets in each persons basket and encouraged them to look through them and be interested in them J)

But they didn’t know that someone was waiting for them! There was a swish of a cloak!

(piece of material – or a cloak if you have one – the material I grabbed was quite light so I swished it past people and over some people and gave the chance to feel)

And the brim of a hat

(feel a hat – I found a straw hat which was not really a highway man but did the job of being a hat)

The Highway Man was waiting and he said “Stand and Deliver! Your Money or Your Life!”

 (encouraged people to repeat the words ‘stand and deliver’ and sung that bit of the song)

He took all their money and jewels

(one person had a cloth bag and asked people for their money and they tipped their nuggets into the bag)

Then he rode off

(clip clop sounds)

And the animals continued looking for food and the leaves rustled in the wind

(rainshaker again – or whatever you used)

I also added on a bit about the highway man sitting by a fire and had the fire app on the ipad and also the scent of a bonfire candle – but that might make it a bit too long)

I then did a bit of call and response with ‘The Highwayman’ poem.



Montessori and its usefulness as good practice when working with people with learning disabilities

I have just been looking back to the power point and hand out that I made for the training day I gave to my colleagues in L’Arche back in 2009. It was the subject of one of the thrice yearly (I think they were) training days that I organised for the support assistants who worked in the the day provision workshops. I really continue to feel strongly about the links between Montessori philosophy/education and good practice for working with people with learning disabilities. Don’t get me wrong I am open to other methods and love learning new skills, however, my Montessori training and work has remained a constant source of inspiration.

Later that same year (2009), when I was first seriously working towards working in the museum sector, I was invited by the the then leader of the education team to carry out a week or two’s work experience at the London Transport Museum. As part of that work experience I carried out several observations of how nursery aged children interacted with the museum – as it was then. I then wrote up extensive notes into a report for the museum, which included my reflections and suggestions for ways forward.

The following text is the hand out that I created for L’Arche and then adapted for the London Transport Museum. The actual notes and the power point are not included here. Let me know what you think and if you are interested in hearing more or perhaps even asking me for some consultancy? (Better get something about work in there!) 🙂

Just please bear in mind that I wrote the handout back in 2009. My role at the time was Day Provision Co-ordinator and I supervised the then five different workshop leaders. It wonder if I what I would write the same and different if I was compiling an up to date list…

The handout is/was as follows:

Questions: (Inspired by the Montessori Method)

What do you think the workshop does well and has to offer the people with learning disabilities who come to it?

What aspects do people like about working in the workshop? What is unique about the workshop?

What things do you feel the workshop could do better with in what it offers people with learning disabilities? Are people as independent and in control as possible?

Environment: (How the workshop space is set up.)

  • Is there order in the environment?
  • Does everything have its place?
  • Do people know where to find everything they need without the help of an assistant?
  • Can the people reach everything?
  • Is everything within their reach appropriate? (So you don’t need to say no or stop someone from taking something.)
  • Are there any unnecessary distractions in the physical space? (E.g. large colourful pictures and or objects.)
  • Are people working in a space that is appropriate for them? (E.g. sitting, standing and with where in the room they are and who else is near where they are working.)
  • Is there enough opportunity for movement in the work place and within the activities themselves?

Daily routine: (Timing of things)

  • Is the timing of daily events clear?
  • Does everyone know what is happening and when?
  • Is the routine as it is working for everyone or do people require changes?
  • Is everyone clear about the work they are doing, goals/expectations, boundaries?

Activities/Work: (In the environment)

  • Are they suitable for people?
  • Are they too difficult? If they are, is there a simpler or part activity that could take its place?
  • Have you observed, broken down and tried the different movements needed for an activity?
  • Could some people be challenged more?
  • What new skills could people learn and be involved in?
  • Is there a particular skill that the people are expressing a desire to refine? If yes, how can you support them with this?
  • Are people choosing their activities?
  • Do the activities have a clear purpose and meaning?
  • Are there any jobs that assistants are doing, that adults with learning disabilities could be doing? (E.g. getting cups and taking them back at tea break.) Remember we are enabling people to be as independent as possible. What may seem hard work the time will be worth it in the long run.)

Assistants: (As teachers)

  • Do you have a positive attitude to everyone in the workshop?
  • Is there favouritism?
  • Are you aware of your prejudices?
  • Do you approach people in a positive way?
  • Are you careful about not criticising their work, even in a subtle way? (You can show the activity at another point, rather than criticise at the time. Or look at the appropriateness of the activity)
  • Do you value all activities and work the same?
  • Do you allow people to take their time and repeat where necessary? Do you give people time to finish their work cycle?
  • Are you doing too much for people? (Think about even the small things/parts of the process.)
  • Do you ensure that you don’t interfere when the person is concentrating on their work? (Even by speaking to them with a positive comment! Concentration is a very important skill to develop.)
  • Do you make sure that you don’t constantly praise people? (People should not rely on others to feel good. The aim is that it comes from within.)
  • Are assistants clear with people about when the person can make a decision and when they can not?
  • Are people allowed to make all possible decisions?
  • Do you take time to sit back and observe?

What areas do you feel you need more support in?

 Some quotes about Montessori education.

‘An adult can substitute himself for a child by acting in his place, but also by subtly imposing his own will, substituting it for that of the child. When this happens it is no longer the child that acts but the adult working through the child,’ Montessori.

‘The most important discovery is that a child returns to a normal state through work…. A child’s desire to work represents a vital instinct since he cannot organise his personality without working; a man builds himself through working.’  Montessori

It is important for us to know the nature of a child’s work. When a child works, he does not do so to attain some further goal. His objective is the work itself, and when he has repeated an exercise and brought his own activities to an end, this end is independent of external factors.’

‘It is necessary for the child to have this order and stability in the environment because he is constructing himself out of the elements of the environment… it is his foundation.’  Montessori

“A child’s different inner sensibilities enable him to choose from his complex environment what is suitable and necessary for his growth. They make the child sensitive to some things, but leave him indifferent to others. When a particular sensitiveness is aroused in a child. It is like a light that shines on some objects but not on others, making of them his whole world’  Montessori


Session Format

Hello again,

I have been doing plenty of writing to describe the music sessions that I lead in L’Arche and so I thought it might be useful if I share the format that I use for them.

The sessions usually last about two hours with a twenty minute- half an hour tea break in the middle.

I am going to share the Bonfire Night session plan….

To continue from my previous blog entries… the session before the bonfire night one was about the rural work turning more to the towns and cities with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Elements included watching the Pandemonium section of the London Olympic Opening Ceremony. We beat on large metal and plastic flower pots and used glass nuggets to represent money in a noisy way….

I write the plan beforehand but then add any adaption I make (hence different tenses) – and there are often plenty of on the spot ideas!

As always I have many thanks to give to my fellow colleagues for taking part in the session.

Where you see the * and ** and *** you can see the ideas I learned from Emmie Ward. In particular her use of the Big Mack as a musical instrument and for recording voice. Emmie also has great techniques for the inclusion of people’s vocalisations and interests into songs.  I also learned the songs for this session from Emmie. I’ll ask Emmie to share more about that at some point as she has lots of great techniques 🙂

Bonfire Night  3rd November 2016
Attention Grabber Activity: Firework App on IpadFirstly just me taking it around before the hello song… everyone else got a turn in the soundscape
Soundscape: Bonfire Night Ssss of a Fizzy drink being opened, crackling of popping candy with water, firework app on ipad, sliding whistle, (rain maker (firework falling sound), crackling paper, bang of the drum (we said 1, 2, 3, bang – everyone has the opportunity to hit drum on the word bang) peoples vocal sounds on Big Mack to play (integrate their interests) *

Activity:We’re all walking along to the fire’  song – action: we poured salt through a flower pot into a small washing up bowl and said it was gunpowder for the gunpowder plot and listened to how it made a quiet sound and we needed to be quiet… can say shhh –

Activity (Contd.): I then said let’s listen to find out if the plan worked! – I asked: Will there be the sound of Big Ben chiming or the sound of an explosion? We counted down and then… heard… yes big ben chiming (iPad) so the plot failedName activity: (soundabout) beat X 4 then name three times and move on. (we did one name and then another) This sort of connected as if naming the names of the conspirators pouring gun powder. (could link this more to the plot or being part of something in future) **

Rhyme: Remember, remember, poem call and response (I actually did this later in storytelling)

Rhythm: Boom Whackers – continue ‘hit, rest, rest, rest’ activity, with everyone having a chance to play them. We stamp feel throughout to keep a beat and i renew the rhythm in-between every person, but anyone can play any pattern they like as it all fits… I play it on the low red one, but again anyone can do anything… The stamping and me doing it in-between seems to help people to create a connecting rhythm.

Vocal Warm Up:Included Do re mi.


London’s Burning

Ring of Fire (after singing through we repeated burn burn bit and people took turns to move the fire poi) ***

Great Balls of Fire (added peoples own endings to ‘Goodness Gracious) ***