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Literacy Night Review

How Working with Story Helps Children Become Active Readers and Writers

A Review of Literacy Night with Parents - March 14 2012

We began with introductions all around.

Wendy Davenport, Curriculum Director:

The staff meets often during the year to work on the Language Arts curriculum, and has spent a good deal of time talking together and preparing for this evening. Tonight we are focusing on how every class in the school loves story and uses story as an effective tool for learning reading and writing. Here at the school, all children love to read. There is not enough time this evening to cover some of the nitty gritty details of literacy, such as phonics, spelling and handwriting, there will be another time for that. The foundation for Village School children is the Preschool Story of the Week, which is told the first day, flannel board the second, puppet show next, then the story book with pictures is presented, then on Friday the children act it out. This teaches the skills that help children to become active readers: for example, they develop a sense of story structure (i.e. that stories have a beginning, middle and end or that they have patterns, such as home, adventure, home, where the character leaves home has an adventure, and returns home changed). Also, the preschoolers’ experience of listening to story, helps them visualize the story, which is a key strategy used by active readers.

The Preschool-Kim and Leanne presenting

1 borreguita & coyote 2 kim leanne borreguita eKim and Leanne presented a portion of the puppet show of the story Borreguita and Coyote, just as they had done for the preschoolers. They said that with very simple props, just a small coyote and lamb, the children listened and watched with rapt attention, sometimes even correcting the teachers, or adding missing parts of the story. We adults were equally enthralled on Literacy Night. We saw a video of the children acting out Caps for Sale, pretending to be monkeys and hat sellers. The children were very engaged. The video showed that children understand plot, characters, and sequencing, and even the “story mountain,” the problem to be resolved in the story. In class, children illustrated and dictated their stories to the preschool teachers, who would scribe the stories on the children’s drawings. 3 puppeteers 4 preschool castle story e

The Kindergarten-1st grade-Martin and Adrianna presenting

With the Native American theme, there is a great selection of stories for the children to hear and read, that really flesh out the theme. Martin read aloud a story about The Animals and the People. The children had written their own stories after hearing a number of similar Native American stories. Adrianna showed the children’s progression of journal writing from kindergarten through 1st grade with a power point presentation, which showed their recall of the oral stories they had heard and how they imagined them. Some very sweet illustrations were displayed that clearly represented the children’s understanding of the stories. The children write in their journals often, and the progression of writing can be observed in their journals through the year. The children had written their own stories, and eight of them were passed out for us to read. The stories contained the themes of friendship, nature, conflict, and one’s place in the world. The children had internalized story to the point that they could write their own with confidence.

2 Samples of K-1 story writing:

5 kindergarten journal jumping mouse story 6 deer men K-1 journalKindergarten, transcribed:
This is a black bear. The black bear met a beaver. So he went over to say “Hi”. The beaver said, “Hello” back to the black bear and the black bear said (in his head) that beaver might be a good friend, and he asked the beaver if he wanted to play. The beaver said “Yes” Then the beaver said, “Do you want to play freeze tag?” and the bear said, “Yes.”

1st grade, written independently:

7 K deer story journalThe Hunters
Once there was a pack of animals. All kinds of animals, but there were not many animals because the people were destroying them, so the buffalo said we will charge them. Suddenly a couple of arrows came whizzing right past the buffalo and hit a deer. “Run”, said the buffalo as another arrow whizzed past his ear. As they were running a fox fell. “Eek” said a mouse as another arrow came whizzing past him. All a sudden the arrows stopped coming. The forest fell silent. The people stopped yelling. They fell off a cliff.

2nd-3rd Grade-Shannon presenting

8 emma writing e 9 2nd story fish got away As one unit this year, ‘list books’ were chosen as mentor texts, as models for the children’s own writing. A number of list books were explored, and Shannon showed how the children noticed common elements and the use of good adjectives. Shannon read five list books to us. We looked closely at Tough Boris just as the children did. We answered questions just as the children do. Shannon showed how the children brainstorm before starting a writing project. She then showed us the list books her children had written for their reading buddies. It was clear in their writing how they had absorbed so much from the list books. It was also clear that they had taken into account their audience (their reading buddies) when they wrote the books. We all enjoyed a great photo display of the children in the midst of their book writing project. The display is now in the upstairs hallway. The 2nd-3rd has just had a Publishing Party for their memoirs.

10 2nd story pool 11 memoir 3rd 12 3rd memoir ship 13 deep in a book

4th-6th Grade-George presenting

14 picnic Bears 15 4th picnic with bears The 4th-6th grade also took on the project of writing books for reading buddies. First the children carefully looked at a number of children’s books and noticed the themes, structure, common features such as repetition and an ending ‘twist’, story mountain and language. We also looked at three of the dozen books that the children had studied: We are Going on a Bear Hunt, One Snowy Night, and Mrs. Armitage on Wheels. We divided into groups and each group looked carefully at one of the books, just as the children would. As the children did, we then reported to the larger group the details of what we had read. George then read a number of books that the children had written and illustrated, which demonstrated their understanding of the structure of children’s books, and all books for that matter. George ended by reminding us of how the children act out the story in preschool- representing how they have integrated story into themselves- and how the 4th-6th graders write their own original play based on their theme of the year every spring, also representing how they have integrated story into themselves. From absorbing all their fiction and non-fiction books throughout the year, they imaginatively come up with a riveting plot and interesting characters for the play. They eagerly write lines and scenes for homework each night, and the resulting compilation is The Play. And the 4th-6th graders learn their lines, build and decorate the set, and act out the play to a full audience at the Town Hall, with music and lighting. So the preschool acting-out-the-story-weekly spirals up as a progression through the grades to a full scale play, a more mature version, with the children still integrating story into themselves. When children graduate from the Village School, they leave as confident imaginative skilled writers.

16 if I had a car for reading buddy 17 if I had a car 1 18 if I had a car 2 19 if I had a car 3 20 if I had a car 4 21 if I had a car 5

The evening ended with looking at a variety of children’s work, and a short questions and answers session. We all left with greater clarity and understanding of the Language Arts program at the Village School.