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The POWER of Story

December 16, 2020 | Kristen Jordan

We certainly are preparing for Christ’s birth.  Our days have been filled with reading the story of Jesus’ birth, telling it with figures, rehearsing our part for the preschool virtual narrative, and responding to worship stories that are helping us to fill the Jesse Tree with ornaments that remind us of the biblical stories that led to Jesus’ birth. 

There is beauty in knowing the details of a story so well by hearing it over and over, with a slightly different narrative, another perspective or an alternate emphasis.  The better we know a story, the more It helps us to appreciate and begin to live and ponder the story.  (This is one of the the reasons that rereading anything is so important!)

Hearing, practicing, and talking about stories over and over also helps young children develop an understanding of narrative, the arc of a story, place, time and characters–all of which are important to their literacy development.  Knowing stories well gets children asking questions, wondering, making connections to their own lives, stories, and experiences.  This type of thinking is something we hope for in all readers, writers, and learners.  

One of my favorite conversations this week highlights some of the amazing thinking that is going on in the Trees class community. It took place after reading yet another version of the Christmas story when one child asked: “Does Jesus have powers?”  Now, what he really meant, I think, was “Does Jesus have power like a super-hero?”  But the conversation continued like this:

“Does Jesus have powers?” 

“YES! Baby Jesus does have powers. The power of the the WAVES!” (large wave gestures).”  

“The Holy Spirit sended him into heaven and he met Herod.  Now THAT’S power!”

“But can baby Jesus fly?” 

”Angels can fly.”

“What would Baby Jesus do if he flew up to space in a rocket ship without his mommy and daddy?”  

“When baby Jesus was born…babies are born…and he was sleeping.  And he wakes up and eats.”  

“Jesus was born in our hearts because of God’s love.” 

“But why doesn’t Jesus have power?” 

Now, in there, I responded to some of what they asked about and clarified some things like “No, baby Jesus did not fly.”  And I tried to explain some things like “Jesus had the power of love; he healed and helped people and shared the love of God.”  But truly, it was the children who were doing the deep thinking. 

It was a totally delightful and charming conversation and we could stop there. But why?!  The discussion was also rich with thought and reflection and shows so much about how the children are thinking and learning, and it deserves more reflection from us.  So now, to dig a little deeper, here is the conversation again, but with my commentary about what I think was happening in terms of learning:

“Does Jesus have powers?” (Being inquisitive.  Thinking about what he knows and what he wonders about. Trying to make sense of what he is hearing and seeing in reality and fantasy worlds.)

“YES! Baby Jesus does have powers. The power of the, the WAVES!” (Large wave gesture).  (She reminded us of the story of Jesus calming the waters when he was out on a boat with his disciples so we read that later. The child was making a connection to other stories she knows.  And thinking about how Jesus’ power looked.)

“The holy spirit sended him into Heaven and he met Herod.  Now THAT’S power!” (Connecting to other knowledge.  Thinking about the vocabulary word-power-and what it means.  Considering and making a link to a particular character and the traits of that character.)

“But can baby Jesus fly?” (Sticking to the topic, and re-framing the question for clarification.)

“Angels can fly.” (Connecting to the previous comment–listening to others. Bringing other knowledge that they’ve learned.  Thinking about notions of what exists.)

“What would Baby Jesus do if he flew up to space in a rocket ship without his mommy and daddy?”  (Using imagination to consider possibilities.  Perhaps playing out some fears. And again, listening and responding to previous comments.)

“When baby Jesus was born…babies are born…and he was sleeping.  And he wakes up and eats.”  (Bringing us back to reality! Connecting to real life; knowledge of babies, and thinking about what it might be like to have a new baby and what babies need.  Placing oneself in the context of the story.) 

“Jesus was born in our hearts because of God’s love.” (Connecting to the previous comment–listening again.  And extending the idea.  Bringing faith and knowledge of something greater into the conversation.)

“But why doesn’t Jesus have power?” (Bringing us back to the original thought–Wow! That’s paying attention to the conversation!  We had lots of ideas, and yet, we are still left with questions sometimes that may not be answered… We still need to talk about the kind of power that Jesus has.)  

And that is how learning sometimes goes…

The children were connecting characters and ideas to their lives, to knowledge and information, to other stories, to each other’s ideas.  They were carrying a line of thinking as they engaged in conversation, listening to one another, and building on what was being said.  They were learning from each other and building understanding.  

When you know a story so well, it becomes a part of you.  You can engage fully in deeper thinking about it.  

Not only are the children learning about stories in general, learning to be thinkers and learners, but they are experiencing the light and life of Christ as they have these experiences in our classroom. 

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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