• IDRA Newsletter • September 2018 •
Building a strong academic foundation and a strong sense of self-efficacy from an early age holds the best promise for English language learners to persevere and succeed in slowly changing educational institutions. One of the contributing factors is the lack of bi-literacy and self-efficacy curriculum.
IDRA’s Semillitas de Aprendizaje bilingual supplemental curriculum has been enjoyed in classrooms from preschool to early elementary. The storybooks provide a balanced approach to reading that acknowledges oral language proficiency levels in the home language and in English and that combine the language and literature-rich activities associated with meaning, understanding and the love of language with explicit teaching strategies as needed to develop fluency associated with proficient readers.
Semillitas de Aprendizaje stories are especially effective in the use of Teatro en el aula, or Readers Theatre, a method that provides opportunities to further engage students in developing oral fluency, a critical factor necessary for reading comprehension.
Readers Theater is the performance of a written script that calls for repeated and assisted reading that is focused on engaging and delivering meaning to the audience. Readers must use their voices, facial expression and body language to convey meaning since there are no props or scenery involved. The goal of fluency instruction then becomes that of improving prosody (reading with expression) and meaning.
The benefits of this approach with bilingual children’s stories are many, including motivation, meaningful contextualization for re-reading and group performance for self-expression, thinking, and engaging students in active listening and sharing. Studies show the importance of fluency interaction and comprehension processes (Rasinski, 2003; Fuchs, et al., 2001; Kuhn, 2003). Research on Readers Theatre also underscores the benefits of this approach in engaging students and creating meaningful context for re-reading (Tranin & Andrzejeczak, 2006). Working on group performance also fosters engagement and relevance with the text that can enhance comprehension through expression, familiarity and discussion.
Beginning from the strong premise of identifying and valuing what children already know, and working from what they have already observed in the natural world, teachers can apply a research process that moves children toward creating a hypothesis and formulating questions about what they want to know more about. IDRA has modified a technique called group memory to inspire scientific observations and inquiry. The process culminates with an evaluative and reflective segment that asks questions to further inspire written language and synthesis. “The strategy and approach is effective at the primary level and can also be used in the intermediate grades,” observed one participant in a training session.
By integrating science and mathematics into language learning, teachers can then weave activities grounded in inquiry that develop bilingual skills and oral language in bilingual classrooms by simultaneously introducing mathematics concepts at very young ages, such as graphs, polls, use of graphic organizers, and technology for even the youngest learners. This approach should always build upon a perspective that affirms and integrates existing knowledge and vocabulary and that fosters self-efficacy and self-expression.
IDRA’s Semillitas de Aprendizaje offers an array of enchanting stories to engage and ignite interest in math, science, problem solving and critical thinking and that encourage students to pose and investigate questions that are generated by them, flowing naturally and inspired by history, culture and the natural world around them. Dual language learning is promoted by integrating vocabulary and language development across all subject areas.
Teachers also can use the stories to promote sensitive, inquiring and collaborative leaders for the future who are attuned to listening to one another, engaged in joint problem-solving and valuing the diversity of opinions and knowledge of others in the group, while growing in their own knowledge and application of skills. Both oral and aural language development are stressed.
Margaret Wheatley suggests: “Ask, ‘What’s possible?’ Be intrigued by the differences you hear (and see). Expect to be surprised. Treasure curiosity more than certainty… Remember, you don’t fear people (or creatures) whose story you know. Real listening always brings people closer together.” (2009)
IDRA’s professional development goes beyond techniques to transform the teaching and learning process because it is based upon a valuing perspective that recognizes and honors the knowledge inherent in every student at every level, celebrating the variety of cultural expressions through language.
Fuchs, L., & D. Fuchs, M.K. Hosp. (2001). “Oral Reading Fluency as an Indicator of Reading Competence: A Theoretical, Empirical, and Historical Analysis,” Scientific Studies of Reading, 5, 239-256.
IDRA. (in press). Semillitas de Aprendizaje Readers Theatre – Teatro en el aula. San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association.
Kuhn, M.R., & S.A. Stahl. (2003). “Fluency: A Review of Developmental and Remedial Practices,” Journal of Educational Psychology, 95 (1) 3-21
Rasinski, T.V., & J.V. Hoffman. (2003). “Oral Reading in the School Literacy Curriculum,” Reading Research Quarterly, 38 (4), 510-522
Rodríguez, R., & J. García. (January 2014). “Building Interest in STEM through Language Development and Storytelling,” IDRA Newsletter.
Tranin, G. & N. Andrzejeczak. (2006). Readers Theatre: A Viable Reading Strategy? Lincoln, Nebraska: College of Education and Human Sciences, Great Plains Institute of Reading and Writing.
Wheatley, M.J. (2009).Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
This article was excerpted from IDRA’s Semillitas de Aprendizaje Readers Theatre – Teatro en el aula (in press).
[©2018, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 2018 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]