We arrived in IES Canarias Cabrera Pinto School La Laguna to give our first GIANTS International storytelling event on 23rd May. Unfamiliar with the micro-climate of Tenerife we foolishly arrived in our sandals to find ourselves in temperatures akin to Scotland even though we were just a mere 20 minute drive from our 30 degree coastal residence in Candelaria. We were led into a beautiful hall adorned with historic paintings depicting island life. It was here we were to perform our stories and deliver a workshop to 50 English language learners aged 13-14.
As they filled the benches before us, we welcomed and chatted with them in English. Laughing at the initial novelty but soon enjoying engaging with us with the language they knew. We showed them Svend’s feet size 49! And mine size 45! Jaws dropped in amazement and we explained that we are giants.
We then introduced them to some of the new words they might hear in the stories; ‘freckles’, ‘cradle’, ‘iron-griddle’, ‘dough’, ‘bonnet’.
Using simple clear English, repetition, movement and the inclusion of this unfamiliar vocabulary, we took them on a journey through 2 stories. The quality of listening in the room was breathtaking. Their desire to follow the whole story was a gift for us as tellers.
And when we’d finished their eyes were sparkling and their faces were smiling.
A short time later they returned to the hall in groups to explore with us the legend of Knockmany which they had just heard.
The workshop’s focus is to find language and story in the body. Being big and being small and calling out as many English words they know to describe scale and physicalising every step of the way.
‘Humongous’ ‘Enormous’ ‘Gigantic’ ‘Titanic’ ‘Massive’ and my favourite from one boy
In groups they worked to physicalise scenes from the stories with permission to be anything from a stone to an iron griddle. Our one stipulation was that they prepare all their scenes and work in English. Once they realised that the sky’s the limit their passion and enthusiasm grew, their ideas became wilder and the need to speak in English became stronger. When the words didn’t come we encouraged them to use their bodies rather than resort to their mother tongue.
The workshop culminated in a storytelling performance where the groups tell sections of the story and each student says at least one sentence in English.
The following 2 days we brought our work to Hispanico Britanico School, where we were joined by our wonderful host and local storyteller Laura Escuela. Here we had a similar response from the students. Before we left the director of the school approached us and said his daughter – who never normally discusses her school day with him- had been part of our workshop the previous day and had talked about it non stop for half an hour when she got home. He was delighted, and his final question was
‘Are you coming back next year?’