Growing Literacy, Step-by-Step
An important element of the Beta curriculum is the Classroom Storytelling Project developed by the Rice University Center for Education. Using this program, our teachers utilizing stories to introduce and develop language and early literacy in three-year olds.
In the fall, teachers read aloud adult-authored stories, so Betas can get a sense of what a story is… something that includes the action of characters with a beginning, middle and end. As the stories are read, teachers ask students to listen for action words and to identify different characters in the story. As they do this, Betas increase their oral language and mathematical awareness as their understanding of literacy develops. At the end of the read aloud, teachers discuss the story’s characters, what happens to them and the resolution of the story.
In order to fully comprehend the concept of a story, the next step for Betas is to reenact the story. Students learn that the written word holds meaning and can be revisited and reread time and time again. Names are drawn to see who will act out the characters in the story- regardless of gender. Students bring the story to life and are able to begin the process of storytelling through their actions. This is an important first step to early literacy and it takes a while for students to understand what their role is in story-telling and dramatization.
In addition to listening to adult-authored stories and acting them out, Betas share and dictate their “news of the day” to teachers. Students learn that their own actions can be captured in written format. News of the day helps students get in the practice of capturing their own thoughts and creating their writing. They move from sharing news (i.e. something that actually happened in their day) to sharing stories (something that they have imagined in their mind).
The transition from listening to adult-authored stories to dictating their own stories happens in the spring. Student stories highlight things that are on their minds, things they enjoy, things that worry or frighten them, as well as things that delight them. Just as students dramatize adult-authored stories, they also reenact their own stories. Students enjoy dictating their own stories because as an author, they can choose who plays the characters in their stories. The creative authority students have as both author and producer keep each Beta fully engaged, active and confident in their learning. From the beginning of early childhood, Betas develop a long-lasting love for storytelling, which is an important first step to take before learning how to read and write in future years.
Through the process of story dictation and dramatization, a teacher is able to assess much about a student’s literacy development, understanding of a story, print awareness, reading and writing behaviors and social competency. The Beta’s world is expanded as each student develops his or her oral language, mathematical awareness, and social skills.
Watch the process of storytelling in the short video below. Shepherd Stepp (Class of '28) dictates a story to his teacher, Lois Geiger.