It looks like fun, but it is so much more.
Four-year-old students in Vicente Hernandez’s class at The Bear Boulevard School for Early Learning have been growing in their literacy abilities during the fall semester through a variety of strategies, including storytelling and dramatization.
Hernandez is in his second year of the Early Language and Literacy Academy (ELLA) at Rice University. He uses research-based early literacy practices in his classroom to “extend vocabulary, develop print awareness, cultivate oral expression, and develop an understanding of narrative form through dictation and dramatization of their own stories.”
At the beginning of the semester, his students dictated stories to Mr. Hernandez, who wrote them down. He would read the students’ stories to the class, and then the students would dramatize them, choosing which classmates would act out the parts of the characters. This strategy contributes to the development of social and emotional skills, both critical to the overall success of learners.
Early in the semester, the students would dictate stories about what was happening in their lives, but got more imaginative with their tales and characters as they were exposed to stories from a wide range of books.
“They began to learn that characters can be imagined and that stories have a beginning, middle, and end,” said Mr. Hernandez
Along the way, they began to learn to write words and add them with their illustrations to the mini-story books that Mr. Hernandez creates with their dictations. In his classroom, the students’ first language is Spanish, so, for now, the class is building language and literacy skills in their native language.
“Writing is the highest level of literacy,” said Kim Hammer, Bear Boulevard director. “To get there, we work on building up their [the students’] oral language, which is a bridge to writing.”
Some kids arrive at Pre-K in August, not even knowing their name, so to be reading and writing their own stories by December is quite huge progress.
On a Friday before winter break, Mr. Hernandez read a holiday version of The Three Bears to his students. Following the first reading, assigned characters from the class performed the story for their peers as the teacher re-read the story. The performance included a group bow to the applause of their peers.
Following the reading and dramatization, the teacher had the group sound out, write, and illustrate some of the vocabulary words from the story as an extension to their learning.
Hayde Gonzalez is the classroom assistant to Mr. Hernandez. She has worked at Bear Boulevard since its opening in 2001.
“They are a phenomenal team,” said Hammer. “They work so well together. He could not do what he does with the students without Ms. Gonzalez.”
Around the Pre-K classroom, further evidence of language acquisition and literacy were evident as students wrote and illustrated responses to some Corduroy bear books they had experienced in class. Several written and illustrated letters to Santa were also posted on the walls.
“By the end of the year, most will be able to write their own stories,” said Hernandez.
The foundational learning in Pre-K is essential to future academic success. By next fall, the students from Mr. Hernandez’s class, as well as those from other Pre-K classrooms across Spring Branch ISD, will be prepared for the rigors of Kindergarten, with expanded vocabularies, and reading and writing abilities.
Submitted by Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications