Dr. Esther Gray presented at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in Orlando, FL, November 20, 2010. The presentation title was: "Classroom Improvised Drama: Meeting Social Studies Benchmarks through Reading, Writing and Speaking in Role" In this NCTE conference session, Gray shared examples of fifth grade students' interdisciplinary work while reading, writing and speaking in role during two units of social studies curriculum. She raised issues about potential benefits and limitations of using improvised educational drama as an instrument for meeting Social Studies and English Language Arts benchmarks.
Posted Jan 14
Dr. Esther Cappon Gray, associate professor of Literacy Studies, recently published a chapter in Literacy, the Arts and Multimodality (2010, Peggy Albers and Jennifer Sanders editors, National Council of Teachers of English [NCTE], Urbana, IL.). The chapter, “Inventing a Drama World as a Place to Learn: Student Discoveries While Speaking and Writing in Role as Fictional Workers,” analyzes the impact of improvised drama episodes on the understandings of the Holocaust which high school juniors and seniors developed during a Holocaust literature unit which Gray co-taught with Susan Thetard, a high school English and theater teacher. After their five-week intervention, Gray and Thetard concluded that, “The success of students…whose previous marginal work in the course improved with drama, and students whose heritage languages were not English, would support the use of process drama with students who find reading and writing challenging, including those for whom English is a new language.” (p. 107.) Literacy, the Arts and Multimodality, includes classroom-based pieces about integrating opera into literature study, composing through both art and writing, bringing filmmaking into the language arts classroom, and exploring the experiences of digital video production by students. The book was developed by members of the NCTE Commission on Arts and Literacies (COAL) on which Gray has been active since she was one of its founders in 2004. Students in schools today have diverse learning styles and inhabit a multimodal world in which they are both readers and creators of texts. The NCTE Commission on Arts and Literacies has assumed the mission of advancing teaching, research, and theory in the arts, multimodalities, and new literacies in ways that embrace such meaning-making approaches as essential components of literacy learning. COAL works to identify pedagogically sound strategies that integrate the arts, multimodalities, and new literacies with traditional literacy education to promote successful learning.
The Dorothy J. McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic receives grant from Target for its Power of Early Reading and Literacy (PEaRL) Program. The clinic announces a partnership with Target in recognition of its efforts to provide community outreach literacy support through research-based and culturally relevant ways to help families support their child's literacy development with a focus on both academic and life outcomes.
Through the PEaRL Program, the McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic will organize eight (8) family literacy celebrations during the one-year period of funding. These events will be hosted by reading specialists from the literacy studies graduate program at WMU. These community events will provide opportunities for families to learn about literacy in ways that value their life experiences. Families will participate with word games, cultural literacy practices, home-made materials, and many other reading, writing, and communication activities related to their daily lives. These events will support families to foster a love of reading with their children and will provide books and parent resources. Books, literacy resources, and dinner will be provided for families.
We are a service-learning non-profit reading center that advocates and supports family literacy as a powerful tool for building academic and life-long success for every learner,” said Dr. Susan Piazza, the reading clinic director.
This grant is part of ongoing efforts by Target to strengthen families and communities throughout the country. Since opening its doors, Target has given 5 percent of its income to organizations that support education, the arts, social services and volunteerism. Today that equals more than $3 million every week.
“At Target, our local grants are making a difference in the communities we serve,” said Laysha Ward, president, community relations, Target. “We’re proud to partner with [nonprofit organization] as part of our ongoing commitment to give back to the communities where our guests and team members live and work.”
Congratulations to Susan Piazza for receiving the College of Education and Human Development Strengthening Community Connections Award for making significant contributions to establishing or strengthening meaningful ties between the University and community partners. And to Chris Kato, undergraduate student, for receiving the College of Education an Human Development Rising Star Award for demonstrating outstanding potential in scholarship, teaching and/or professional leadership.
Congratulations to Catelin Strang, a 2010 Presidential Scholar. The award is WMU's highest honor presented to an undergraduate.
Students are nominated for the award by faculty members. They are selected on the basis of their general academic excellence, academic and/or artistic excellence in their major, and intellectual and/or artistic promise.
Catelin is shown here with President John Dunn and Faculty Senate President John Jellies.
Susan Piazza, assistant professor of literacy studies, recently represented WMU on a Language and Literacy Education Delegation to China. Patricia Edwards, president elect of the International Reading Association, led the trip of 30 representatives from 29 states including K-12 teachers, literacy coaches, principals, and university professors. Professional exchanges took place at seven different schools and universities across Shanghai, Xi’an, and Beijing, including WMU’s Confucius Institute partner, Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU).
Warm welcomes and openness were abundant from teachers and students alike. Did you know that pedagogies of the Old China are making way for progressive approaches? There is synergy in education around the New China. Focused on growth, Chinese educators talked about critical literacy, creativity, and student-centered learning, rather than transmitting knowledge and high stakes testing that still characterizes most Chinese schools. The delegation shared and learned from their Chinese counterparts about current language and literacy issues such as technology, special needs, testing, family literacy, dialects, equity, and politics in education.
The trip revealed a remarkable national pride in Chinese ancient heritage, as well as in current growth. The U.S. group gained a glimpse of China’s economic, environmental, political, and educational changes including Jiangquo’s Primary School in Shanghai that champions environmental studies and experiential learning; Beijing Normal University teachers who are seeking critical approaches in English; BLCU’s students who talked about freedom and multilingual speakers; and, Xi’an’s rural residential kindergarteners who excel in creative and dramatic arts. The group returned with new international friends and colleagues, great respect for the country, and a renewed passion for teaching summed up by a favorite Confucius saying, “A teacher for a day, a mother or father for a lifetime”.
After-school literacy tutoring was offered spring 2010 for K - 9 students who wished to extend their knowledge and use of reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.