Mr Biggles – from Hook to Book

Mr Biggles started as an idea – as a storyteller, I have been lots of books as part of my research into the history of folk tales. Many of the European stories feature bears, especially those from Germanic areas. Those of that have read my blogs before will be familiar with the peculiar story of The Turnip Princess, in which a small bear is a witch’s familiar, although this is a bit of a red herring (if you pardon the pun). I have been slowly creating a Storytelling Gang of characters that I use as focus objects during sessions, so it became obvious that a bear was necessary.

But how to make a bear?

Well, I have made a few characters now and most of them have come from the crochet pattern books of Kerry Lord from TOFT, an alpaca wool manufacturer. Her patterns are brilliant and make fabulously lovable and tactile, appealing creatures. They have a definite ‘look’ about them and they easily be given a personality all of their own.  On finding the pattern for the bear I wanted, I looked for suitable materials and colours. I went for bamboo cotton for its durability (it will be handled by many times and in different conditions, weather etc) and shades of brown, to keep an edge of realism. Once I had completed all the parts of the bear, the face posed the most difficult part of the puzzle, as this is the most important piece. Needless to say, it took ages to get this right. The shape of the eyes, the nose, to smile or not, the shape of the smile and the size of it – all almost impossible! Somehow, the face suddenly revealed itself. Almost like a carving coming out of stone. And wow, what a lovely little face too!

Mr Biggles

Mr Biggles came out of the Storytelling Gang bag for the first time the next day, and barely had his nose poked out, when I heard a little boy proclaim that he knew his name was Mr Biggles, and that was that. I had been struggling to name him, so it is always wise to consult the experts on these matters. The eight and nine year olds (and their parallel class) given the job of naming Mr Oggy Boggles in January are still buzzing with excitement over that ceremony, five months later.

What happened next…

The shaping of the character of Mr Biggles pretty much at the same time as he did. The process of crochet and pattern I followed involves a great of shaping and creation, thinking about the general shape of the character, his face, how his body will work and move, all contribute to how he will be. More than that, as a storyteller, I think about what he might get up to, think about the stories he will get involved in, the stories that he knows. Of course, there will be elements of my personality going into his personality. He is, after all, my creation, and that is bound to be inevitable in some way.  Once a character has met children and I talk about them, things can change as this when they really come to life, especially when I hear my responses to questions that I never thought I’d be able to answer.

And then, of course, there’s writing a story about them… but that really is a whole other story!


Embla xxx

PS Don’t forget

Competition information is here…

Character of the Week #3 Mr Biggles

Say hello to this week’s brand new character of the week…

Just Saying Hello!

Mr Biggles is a lovely, friendly bear, that lives in a wood and knows a great deal about the countryside and our world. He can help you find out about animals, birds and trees in the forests he loves in Britain, and every other living thing on Earth. An expert on what makes the planet as wonderful and powerful as it is, he can tell you about rivers and mountains, skies and seas, earthquakes and volcanoes,  tiny streams and mighty moving floods of water and soil. Also a believer in being a responsible member of the world, Mr Biggles can talk to you about recycling, using electricity and water wisely and how to take care of our environment.

Mr Biggles’ Book

Like every self respecting member of the Storytelling Gang, Mr Biggles has his own book that travels around with him when he meets children in different classroom and storytelling sessions. This one is full of ideas about his friends, the environment, and woodlands in particular. There’s a story about some bears his friend, Bob, met in woods and what they got up to as well. Take a look at some of the pages from the book.

Busy Biggles

Mr Biggles was born only a couple of months ago and has been one of my most popular characters. He was named not by me, but by a pupil I was teaching at one of the schools I visit regularly as a supply teacher. Barely (if you pardon the pun) had his nose poked out of the storytelling bag, when the little burst out with “I know what his name is. It’s Mr Biggles.” Up until that moment I had been thinking of a few different names, and nothing had really seemed right. Well, Mr Biggles it was and it has suited him ever since. There was a brief foray into Mr Biggle, though it didn’t last. Always trust children on these things.

For the past two weeks, Mr Biggles has been working his big strong paws off in Reception classes at a number of schools.  The children have learnt to sequence pictures from a story, to use relative positional language (not in those words), to draw different animal homes and to understand how an acorn grows into an oak tree. For one little boy, he learnt that acorns are called acorns, not oakanuts, which was a hard won contest. Acorns, pine cones, sticks and other outdoor materials were used on one particularly cold and miserable afternoon to create ephemeral art in the classroom, and the pictures were fantastic. The bark rubbing collages totally made by the children were unexpectedly delicious, as they were far more imaginative with their use of shape and colour than I anticipated them to be, which just go to illustrate my earlier point of trusting children of these things.

Anyway, TTFN, and I’ll be back soon!

Embla x

P.S. I will posting news about a competition on Tuesday, so look out for that!

More information coming on Tuesday 1st May


Character of the Week #2 continued!

My favourite alien, Mr Oggy Boggles, is back for another turn as Character of the Week!

Available for sessions in schools and at parties, Mr Oggy Boggles loves telling stories and helping children to write their own. He even has his own book to share with children.

Today, we have been working on adding some illustrations to his story, and we have something to show you. Take a few minutes to enjoy highlights from his life story so far, and then click on the links below to read the full story.

To read Mr Oggy Boggles’ full Origin Story, read on MacDuff:

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part One

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part Two

Shakespeare’s Birthday – 23rd April

To mark Shakespeare’s birthday on Monday, 23rd April, how about doing some of the Witches’ Spell activities I have placed FREE to download on TES resources? Based on the Witches’ Spell from Macbeth, there are sequence of lessons and activities, with lesson plans (with aims and success criteria included), worksheets, presentations, resource lists and all you need to get going on great sessions with children from EYFS to LSK2. There’s a little taste of everything there, from Drama (of course), to Maths, Science, Music, Art, Craft, PE… plus extension ideas too.

These have all been revised since they were first published and new additions have been made, so are well worth a second look if you have the time.

Lessons based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Clink on the links here for more information and the links to the TES resources:

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 1

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 2

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 3

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 4

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 5

And for those with more money than time, a bundle of all them that you can pay cash monies for:

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Bundle


Embla the Bunny Story Detectives

A simple to use powerpoint presentation for primary aged children, and has ENGLISH subject tasks, requiring reading comprehension, and a understanding of plot, character and setting. The powerpoint can be used for group work, class work or guided reading activities, so is versatile and easy to adapt for individual classes. Basic lesson objectives and success criteria are included, as well as handy hints and notes along the slides. The Story Detectives resource bank uses entirely original stories written by Emma Middlemiss (that’s me) about a bunny, facing new beginnings and changes, with a hint of Nordic mythology and history, as well as other characters to draw out the best of children’s imaginations and interests.

Be a History Detective – teaching investigation skills

I’ve just created two easy to use lesson plans based around the concept of asking and answering simple historical questions – why, when, where, what, who, how, can, do. Designed to get Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 children thinking about the key questions they should be asking when carrying out investigations about the past, these two lessons take the children, step-by-step through the process of thinking about why we need to ask questions, how to ask questions and how to answer them based on evidence. They aren’t period specific, so please feel free to adapt them to your circumstances.

Aims and success criteria are included, as are downloadable resources to help you construct a lesson, worksheets and interactive wall displays and further resources. All you need is here to get you going and start being creative with your thinking.

Download for FREE from TES resources by clicking on this link:

History Detectives – Questioning skills

EmblaBee can run these lessons as a workshop in your school. Please contact her directly for more information:

Go Bananas! Do Stories! – What makes an interesting character

The second of my lesson plans designed to help teachers and TAs introduce the fundamentals of story writing to children in a straightforward and painless way!

A simple to use lesson plan, designed for teachers and teaching assistants to pick up and get going with straightaway, with hints and suggestions to make this a great lesson to use quickly and easily. This is an introduction to story writing for children, as it goes through the basics of identifying what makes a character interesting and then how to create characters , step by step. There are tips for the adults in how to deliver the lesson, aims, success criteria, an easy resource list, downloadable resources with success criteria included, and separate learning objectives for your assessment files. This is a lesson that has been tried and tested in the classroom and works! Adaptable across the primary age range, this lesson works best with Key Stage 1 and Lower Key Stage 2.

Follow the link here: Go Bananas! Do Stories! What makes an interesting character?

EmblaBee runs workshops on story-writing for children and adults, so you can book her to come to your school or setting, and she will lead a session like this one with you and your pupils or group. Please get in touch for more information, at emma@emblabee,org  N.B. Special offers apply until the end of January, with an extra discount for the very last week of the month!

Image by Jack Moreh

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part One

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles

When you look up at the moon at night, do you ever wonder who lives up there? We think we know that there are astronauts and cosmonauts and dust and rocks up in space, and that there are no such thing as aliens, but are you sure? Just because you have never seen a thing, doesn’t mean it is not real, does it? I have never seen electricity or the wind or the air, but I know they exist. Is it just that aliens are always where we’re not when we’re looking? Are they just really good at hide and seek?

Let me tell you The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles and I’ll you decide.

Many years ago, far away on the moon, there lived a curious little fellow, by the name of Mr Oggy Boggles. He didn’t know how he came by this name, because there was no-one around to call him by this name and he couldn’t even remember seeing anyone else at all, only him, so the need for a name seemed rather curious. Nevertheless, Mr Oggy Boggles was his name and he lived, all on his own, on the moon. His favourite food was, of course, cheese. Perhaps, more surprisingly, his second favourite food was marshmallows, even though he’d never eaten any. He loved playing football, although he kept losing the ball because it floated off into space and he wasn’t very good at catching it. At the end of each of his two legs was one large, heavy foot, which helped him stay on the dusty ground of the moon. At the end of one of his arms was a large, three-pronged claw, which was very good for catching moon-cheese weevils and for being in goal, but was rubbish for doing complicated models out of lollipop sticks. On the other arm, he had a hand that looked a mitten, which was much more useful, most of the time.

The most curious thing about Mr Oggy Boggles was that even though he was quite, quite alone, and for all he knew, had always been that way, he never really felt completely lonely. On the very top of his head was an impressive antenna. He had nice little ears too, pretty much like you and me, except they were white and pink and green and blue (which was the same as the rest of him), and he could hear normal sounds through them. But with his antenna, he could hear the sound of stories on Earth. Old stories, new stories, funny stories, sad stories, true stories, made up stories, stories for children, stories just for grown-ups, all sorts of stories. He could choose which ones to listen to, as we can choose which radio station to listen to, and he imagined the faces and places that went with them, and made the pictures up in his head. Being the only being on the moon and seeing on himself and the moon, most of what he saw his head looked like him and the moon, but he loved the stories and whenever he felt a bit sad or on his own, he would concentrate really hard and listen to a story. Oggy really liked the ones about cake and marshmallows the best, but he liked the ones about fighting princesses and rescuing dragons too. Sometimes he thought that he might have muddled things up because he carried around so many stories in his head. He decided that it didn’t matter, it is enjoying the stories that counts and may be listening again next time will help.

One day, everything changed. Mr Oggy Boggles was in his garden, tending his Wensleydale Cheese Plants, which were just coming into bloom, when he heard a terrible crash and a roar. Not ever hearing or seeing anyone else before, he didn’t know what to do. He ran this way and that. He picked up his watering can and put it down four times. He hugged the Cheddar Tree and stubbed his massive toes on the wheelbarrow. Eventually, he ran into his little moon house. The whole of the moon seemed to be shaking and quaking around him. Every plate on his sideboard fell to the floor with crash, his favourite cup with a picture of an acorn looking man on it fell into the sink from the draining board. Poor Oggy didn’t know it was the sound of an explorer vessel from a nearby space station coming in to land to search for life on the moon. He was very afraid, so he pulled the shutters tight across the windows and bolted the door and hid under the table. The shaking didn’t stop and soon he felt his house start to break away from its foundations and drift away into space…or so it seemed to him.



Spring Term is here! Hooray!!!

I love Spring Term. There are many reasons for this. One is that it is the shortest. But there is so much to love about this term.

It is the term of the unexpected. The moveable feast that is Easter keeps us on our toes and we’re never quite sure how long the term is going to be or how soon we need to start thinking of chicks and eggs and stuff, and getting our festive on. There’s Mothering Sunday, Pancake Day, Lent, Chinese New Year and National Saints’ Days for David and Patrick. Dear old Saint Valentine has his Day too, and the staffroom ponders his life story and how much if it is true, or not, or which of the myriad versions are the most correct.  We come to some kind of conclusion, and then, THEN, someone up pipes that the whole thing was actually something else altogether, and that he might as well have come from Dagenham and been called Dave, and it was all made up by American card manufacturers and chocolatiers, and then we’re in a quandary again until we are distracted by a box of last Christmas’ chocolate biscuits, that were discovered under a pile of scrambled tinsel halos, when they were finally put away by a bored student TA.

We all know that Autumn is meant to be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, but Spring is when children are most likely to come in from play time gently steaming from the rain, saying they forgot their coats or to put their hoods up. The least said about the mellow fruitfulness produced from noses and throats, the better, but, oh golly, you know a seasoned teaher because they always carry a tissue or four.

One thing I really love about Spring is the light returning to the earth. Hometime gets lighter and lighter, and we’ll hear children outside gadding about on bikes and playing, and annoying the old folks, all too soon. Plants spring into life and the world starts to grow again. Flowers show their faces and trees start to sway and swish, rather than roar and holler in the wind. I am lucky enough to live in a rural county and see the world flourishing around me. Already I have seen lambs in fields and snowdrops and buds ready to burst out. I can’t wait.

In schools too, wherever you are, this is a flourishing season too. I tend to think that the Autumn term is a great term for embedding and building skills that the children need to help them grow, of digging in the nutrients, of giving them what they need. The Spring sees that nurturing continue, the roots going deeper in and strengthening, but those buds of knowledge and skill really start shooting and showing their worth. The children have had time to adjust to what may have been upsettling for them in the autumn – new classes, new year groups, new schools, new towns, change, change, change; just as some plants are moved when they need to grow – and now is their time to fully grow.

And in the Summer term, wow, it only gets better!