Young Audiences of Western New York recently taught a program to some Buffalo Public school and rural students. WBFO's Focus on Education reporter says the Arts for Learning is an "art-integrated" literacy curriculum.
"It was amazing to see them grow and expand as we went through out the unit," said Aitina Freed Cooke, Education Coordinator at Young Audiences.
The organization was awarded a grant from JCPenney Cares to teach the program to third graders at Buffalo's Waterfront Elementary School and first graders Brumsted Elementary in Holland. This program uses art images and theatrical exercises as Cooke presented the book My Father's Dragon to students.
"Going through the process where they're able to connect emotions to certain words, they are able to understand the words that surround a particular word that does not look familiar to them. They're able to figure out what this word means based upon the words that surround it," said Cooke.
"Everybody understands when your eyebrows are down and your face is frowned and your nose is wrinkled up -- you're upset because we an all related to these emotions and we put that on paper and we draw it. 'I can see, yes that dragon was sad at that moment.' Maybe you couldn't understand it by reading the words, but when you see the picture now you connect to these words."
Cooke taught the students to create simple line drawings and use theatrical exercises to better understand and verbalize a story. Students even created their own stories and sequels to the story they read. Cooke said the students did an "amazing" job.
"Use lines and shapes in order to show facial expressions, to show that they understand how that character felt -- the different emotions of each character," said Cooke.
The students responded with excitement.
"The students were very excited when I walked into the room. They're very excited to learn. I know in the beginning some of them were very afraid. They didn't have the experience of drawing," replied Cooke.
Cooke says she witnessed students enhance their learning even if they were on different reading levels.
"Going through that story they could see the differences and they could see where this character was going, how this character grew as the story ended, understanding the story map," Cooke explained.