National Read Across America Day: Celebrating Arts & Literacy

Today is National Read Across America Day! The day was established by the National Education Association (NEA) in 1998 to help get kids excited about reading. Last year, Arts for Learning completed the 2nd year of our Arts & Literacy Project at Ralph Waldo Emerson School, IPS #58. This project, made possible by the Nina Mason Pulliam Trust, focuses on using an art form to improve literacy skills for third grade students. Teaching Artist Shawn Whistler used his extensive theater and writing background to enhance literacy curriculum for 3rd grade students at Ralph Waldo.

In the first half of this year-long residency, students learned how dancers put together a dance in a sequence to promote storytelling. Over the course of a semester, students built their articulation and vocabulary skills with their bodies through dance. As the lessons progressed, they transferred these skills into language arts by exploring context clues and creating “tableaux” that helped define the actions, thoughts, and feelings of a group of character’s at a specific point in the story.

Students creating a tableaux scene from the Story of Wilma Rudolf

“I believe that teaching the students the parts of speech and incorporating the tableaux really helped the students understand the sequence of a story along with describing words (adjectives) and action verbs. Students started understanding the time order words in a story and would use them in their writing.” – Third Grade Teacher, Ralph Waldo

Through this series of lessons, students used text evidence to independently choose a character’s perspective while collaboratively problem-solving how each of them fit into the story and best represent the “living picture.” The culminating activity, as seen in this book, shows how the entire class recreated the story of Wilma Rudolf in sequence using tableaux created and performed in teams of 3-4 students.

In February 2021, Arts for Learning started our 3rd year of Arts & Literacy at Daniel Webster School, IPS #46 with Teaching Artists Carol Tharp-Perrin and Larry Gindhart.

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