In a bag of teaching tricks, there is nothing more powerful than the ability to tell a story. “Once upon a time” stirs metaphor, word, and image into meaning. Most importantly, when I tell a story, I am teaching children about reading and writing in their native language.
Have you ever listened closely to children tell stories? They often begin with a question–or words and commands that end with a question mark. I think eight year olds invented up-speak. “Know what?” they will ask. Or “Guess what?” More often than not, they simply begin with, “Once?” They are joining the oldest storytelling tradition in the world: Call and Response. What they are really asking is, “Are you listening?” And we, fixing our eyes on the teller, lean forward, “We are listening.” This week I will be working with young writers on seeing story in the “small moment.” This is challenging work, but it is very rewarding. As we talk it through, I will hear it over and over: “Once?”
I am listening.