(I know, I know, I haven’t updated all week. The first full week of school has been super busy but, on top of that, I’ve had my mother-in-law’s third degree black belt testing and graduation–she passed!–and my wife hasn’t been feeling well so I’ve been taking care of her plus I started my graduate classes this week. So I’ve had to prioritise what I do and, at least for this week, writing a blog post has not been as important as family and classes. I will make an effort to post more regularly in the coming weeks. I am also going to resurrect an old practice and allow my students to write a blog post each Friday during Rad, Write, Think!, which is what I call our weekly preferred activity time. All of which is really neither here nor there in terms of the purpose of this actual post.)
This past summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a district workshop entitled “For the Love of Literacy.” Once a week for several weeks, I gathered with elementary teachers from across grade levels throughout the district and looked closely at the tools, resources, and assessments we use when teaching our students to be literate. We explored the Continuum of Learning associated with Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell’s Benchmark Assessment System. We delved deeply into the Daily 5 and CAFE frameworks developed by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (the “2 Sisters”). We looked into the Writing Workshop curriculum written by Lucy Calkins back in the 1980s and 1990s but recently updated to reflect the targets established by the Common Core State Standards. And we talked about literacy: what it is, why it is important, and different ways to teach it.
During this intense study of best practices in literacy instruction, I found myself thinking about what I can do to provide quality experiences for my students and their learning buddies who are in kindergarten this year. When Miss C and I first started collaborating, her students were second graders. Then she taught first grade for three years. Year five of this collaboration is seeing her with a kindergarten class now, which has forced us to shift what we do and how we do it yet again. One idea that came to me was the use of readers theatres.
I, personally, have disliked readers theatres since I was a teenager and was forced to do one for a church activity. I thought the script was bad, the story weak, and the characters boring. And I never looked back.
Until this summer.
I started thinking about what we could do, and then I learned that my students would be doing Dance & Drama during their first six-week rotation of fine arts. The fine arts teachers are always looking for ways to infuse arts into the classroom and I realised that readers theatres would be a perfect opportunity. I talked to Mrs. T about it and she was excited. We met, we planned, and we began implementing today.
She came down to our room this afternoon during our literacy block and introduced the differences between plays and readers theatres. Then we had the students divide up into groups of three, four, or five and gave each group a script to read. The students took turns with the different roles, experimenting with voice and helping each other with unusual vocabulary and new ideas. (One group of boys read a script for a retelling of Chicken Little and declared it to be inappropriate for kindergarteners because, in a shocking twist, all of the characters died!) We worked on this for about half an hour but I had the distinct impression I could have let the students keep going until the end of the day and they wouldn’t have minded in the least!
We are going to read the scripts again tomorrow and then the students will be performing for their classmates on Monday. Then we are going to select books that are of high interest to our kindergarten friends and each group will write a readers theatre script based on the story. Then they will perform for the younger students and we will record them so that Miss C can share with her class again. (I will also be posting the videos online through a private link so that we can share with families.)
I am really excited about this project and so far get the impression that my students are excited about it, too!