This wonderful book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg is still being enjoyed by children more than thirty years after its original publication in 1980 and there are now eight other books in the series.
This article outlines ways to explore the book using drama strategies which are linked to in the text.
- Choose key moments from the story and ask groups to make a tableau, such as the skeletons lying in bed, playing in the park, throwing a stick for the dog or going to the zoo. You could use some thought tracking to find out what the skeletons are thinking in the different scenes.
- Retell the story with the groups making the tableaux at the right moments.
- Mixed up dogs:Ask groups of four or five pupils to make a still image of the shape of the dog when he is put back together in the wrong order. Now see if they can make another image of the bones of the dog lying on the ground. Can they move slowly from the image of the bones on the ground to their image of the mixed-up dog? This would work well to music.
- Play Mirrors. Divide the children into pairs and ask them to label themselves A and B. They should stand facing each other a few feet apart with an imaginary mirror in between them. A is a skeleton and B is the reflection. A starts moving slowly and smoothly while B tries to reflect A's movements as accurately as possible. On a given signal, the leading swaps over so that B is now looking in the mirror. Try playing some spooky music while they do this. After they have had a bit of practice, they could devise a ghostly movement sequence to show to the others.
- Discuss with the children the different ways the skeletons tried to frighten each other. In threes, children take the roles of the two skeletons and the dog and have to practice some different ways of scaring each other. Can they act as though they are not expecting anything before they are surprised?
- Create a soundscape of a haunted house. As well as creepy sounds, ask the children to think of some words from the story which they could speak in a spooky way. You may wish to record the result.
- In groups ask the pupils to make up a new adventure for the skeletons - what they did the next night. Or it could be a story about what might happen if the skeletons went out during the day. Groups should discuss and improvise their story before showing it to the rest of the class. They can also use some narration including key phrases such as "On a dark dark hill". This can easily lead onto some art work and writing.