Storytelling is, and has always been, the foundation for language and learning. I write about children, yet storytelling applies to all people. Words and ideas are how we start to learn, and how we continue to learn.
Everybody loves a good, gripping story. I am the storyteller at school, and all my stories are true- things that happened to me in my childhood. A pretend story starts with Once Upon a Time. A true story starts with It Happened Like This.
Whenever I say the words, “It happened like this”, children are captivated. They know it is a ‘Jennie Story’ and a true story. Best of all, they are getting far more words and language into their brains because storytelling has no pictures.
This is “The Halloween Story”. I remember it like it was yesterday. Children beg for this story even in the summer and it is a popular ‘Jennie story’ in my classroom. Happy Halloween!
“It Happened Like This”… When I was eight years old I went trick-or-treating with my little sister, Sarah. Back then children went trick-or-treating alone. There were no Moms or Dads. And, we never went out until it was really dark. All the way dark. I dressed up as Raggedy Ann and Sarah dressed up as a scarecrow (although she looked more like a hobo than a scarecrow). We each had a pillow case to collect all the candy which we called our ‘loot’. We were so excited!
Then my mother said, “Jennie, don’t forget to go trick-or-treating at Mrs. Crotty’s house.” Mrs. Crotty! She was really old. She always looked mean and she never smiled. Her house was dark brick with big bushes and trees everywhere. Everything was always dark. Her house was as old as she was.
I said nothing to my mother.
Sarah and I headed out trick-or-treating. We had the best time! We got tons of candy, too. When we got back home we dumped our pillowcases out on the rug in the den and sorted through all the candy. I gave Sarah all my Tootsie Roll Pops and she gave me all her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Yum!
Then my mother said, “Did you go trick-or-treating at Mrs. Crotty’s?” I had forgotten, of course. When I heard her words I felt like a lightening bolt had hit me while I was falling off a roller coaster. Again she said, “Well, did you go to Mrs. Crotty’s house?” All I could do was look down and shake my head. My mother was not happy! She said, “Jennie, I told you to go. So take your sister’s hand and go right now”.
I took Sarah’s hand and we went back outside together. Now it was really dark and trick-or-treat was over. There were no lights on at anyone’s house. We slowly walked to Mrs. Crotty’s house. As we turned the sidewalk and walked up her walkway I squeezed Sarah’s hand and she squeezed mine. I was so scared. We got to Mrs. Crotty’s porch which was pitch black and surrounded by weird branches. As we approached the front door I said to my sister, “You knock.” “Oh, no” she said, “Mother told you to do it.” So, I took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
A moment later I heard the door slowly creak open. Just as I was ready to run away, the lights came on and there stood Mrs. Crotty, smiling. I’d never seen her smile before. She said, “Hi Jennie. Hi Sarah. Come in.” We stepped inside the door. “Wait right there!” We didn’t move. She ran to the back of the house and returned with two gigantic popcorn balls, covered in melted butter and caramel. They were still warm. Yum!
And I was so afraid. Silly me.
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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