“Oh, Sue. I need to tell you “The Spider Story”, one of the ‘Jennie Stories’ for my preschoolers. All true. That’s why children are glued when I say, “It happened like this.” The spider one beats them all, ” wrote Jennie in a recent comment. As we are all children at heart and still ready for storytime, I asked Jennie to come over and share her Spider Story with us…
Children know when I tell a story, that if it begins with “Once upon a time”, it is pretend. If it begins with “It happened like this”, it is real- something that happened to Jennie. During lunchtime at school, children beg “Can you tell a Jennie story? Please?” Begging is probably an understatement. When I begin, fifteen children are glued. You could hear a pin drop. I have at least fourteen stories I tell, and this one is a favorite.
“It happened like this… Bugs are much bigger in the south. The farther south you go, the bigger the bugs. Summers are hot and long, so the bugs really grow and grow. If you think bugs are big or creepy here in Massachusetts, you haven’t seen anything. When I was first married, my husband and I lived in Virginia. That is much farther south. And the bugs were really big… especially spiders.”
Long pause, and a worried I-don’t-like-spiders face.
“One evening after dinner I cleared the table and went into the kitchen with the dirty dishes. My kitchen floor was white, and there- right in the middle of the floor- was a spider! That spider was huge. The big, black body was the size of a quarter (which I show children with my rounded fingers.) Then, with the legs, it was THIS BIG (again, I show children with my fingers.)
I was petrified. The spider didn’t move. I called for my husband. “Steve!”, I hollered. A minute later he came running into the kitchen. He saw the spider, and he froze. I mean, he really froze. He was stiff. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t even speak. I yelled at him to do something. He was frozen with fear. And still, the spider did not move.
I had to do something. I thought about stepping on it. No, I just couldn’t. What if I missed, or if it ran away? The only thing I could think of doing was to kill it with bug spray. I gave my husband one last plea to help, but it was no use. Frozen.
I slowly walked over to the kitchen cabinet under the sink. That’s where we kept the can of bug spray. Raid.”
At this point in the story, I am standing up, copying my frozen husband, sneaking toward the kitchen cabinet, and breathing hard.
“I got the can of bug spray and shook it, never keeping my eyes off the spider. I was breathing so hard. I was as brave as I could be. I leaned over toward the spider, aimed, and sprayed. Shhhhh… went the bug spray. Immediately, WOOOOSHH! A million tiny baby spiders were everywhere! Everywhere!!! (I make my hands burst apart, like all the baby spiders coming from big mama spider). OH, NO! NO!! So, I stepped and stomped on all the millions of tiny spiders running everywhere. (Of course, I then stomp all over the floor.)
Whew! The spiders were finally gone. But, it took a while for my husband to speak or to move.”
Storytelling is the root of language and learning. If I can tell a good story, and a true story, then I am giving young children the foundation for reading.
Jennie Fitzkee has been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is her passion. She believes that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what she writes about.
She is highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of her reading to children. Her class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
Follow Jennie on her blog, A Teacher’s Reflections.
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