TheaterBuilding Literacy in the 21st Century

Watch Kindergarten teacher Liza Matthews take her students through a unit where they not only read “The Wizard of Oz” — they absorb it: they perform it, draw pictures about it, and even create their own stories with the characters. In the process, they meet and exceed the literacy standards for their grade level, as well as learn some 21st Century Workplace Skills.

This video illustrates what is possible for children when the arts are taught well The teacher has developed a unit of study called “The Power of Story,” which takes advantage of the natural connection between a text and theater.

Students in this classroom have fallen in love with a piece of literature. They understand in a deep way how a story can be about their own experience, and about all humanity at the same time. They learn important life lessons, which in the “Wizard of Oz” are about the true value of friendship and human relationships. They don’t just intellectually encounter the themes of the story — the value of working together, of building a team that incorporates everyone’s strengths — they are living those themes out in the classroom. These are the types of 21st Century Skills desired in the workplace.

Their understanding of the story is deepened through performance and their interpretations of the characters. The characters don’t just exist on the page, or in their minds, but through their voices, expressions, and gestures. They have literally embodied the story.

These kindergarteners have a new regard for each other, and have worked together as contributing members of a cast. Building a sense of pro-social community is one of the major lessons of Kindergarten, and in this unit, that “community” also included their parents, who were involved in costuming and other areas of production, above and beyond being an appreciative audience.

Research reveals exciting links between the arts and literacy development.— National Assembly of State Arts Agencies: The Arts and Literacy Development

Are Marin County students learning with the full range of their creative selves — not just their minds but their voices, their bodies, and their hearts?

For more information, see:
Common Core English Language Arts Standards for Kindergarten.