Sign Language Dictionary

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Once upon a time

Once Upon A Time in Sign Language

Learn how to sign once upon a time – so many of the best stories start that way!

1. Bring both hands up to one side, about shoulder height. Palms face one another, and one hand is held a few inches in front of the other.
2. Circle the hands backwards a few times, alternating one in front of the other.
3. This sign looks like your hands are moving into the past, just as classic stories started in the past… or once upon a time! Use this visual to help you remember the sign.

Teaching Tips:

  • Create a collaborative story. One person says and signs, “Once upon a time…”, then the next person adds a sentence or two about what happens next. Follow with the next person who adds a bit more to the story (or switch back and forth if there are just two of you). What wonderful stories can you create together?
  • Preschool learning based on classic fairytales is lots of fun. Create a fairytale reading corner where children can look through illustrations and have a week or fairytale read-alouds. Encourage children to help you say and sign the opening line, “Once upon a time…”

Once upon a time. Many stories start this way. It means a long time ago in the past. Once upon a time. Your hands move into the past. Once upon a time.