SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The May 2 meeting of the Spotswood Board of Education started off with a rather unique presentation of children's theater. Ten kindergarteners from the Schoenly School joined their teachers Stacey Vespoli and Debra Generelli in sharing the Readers Theater program that the kindergarten teachers employ in their classrooms.
"Every year the board asks that each school does a little presentation," Schoenly School Principal Nancy Torchiano explained. "This year we had Mrs. Vespoli and Mrs. Generelli volunteer to do our Schoenly presentation. They had gotten a grant from the Spotswood Education Foundation to do Readers Theater."
The Spotswood Education Foundation helps to fund programs and innovative projects that help to enhance the education of the students in the Spotswood School District. Funding for SEF programs comes from private sources, including donations, fundraising and charitable events.
Generelli's class performed an abbreviated version on the classic "Goldilock and the Three Bears" while Vespoli's students took on "The Little Red Hen." All 10 participants donned handmade hats or other adorable headpieces depicting the characters they were portraying. The young readers included Emmanuel Salama (Narrator One), Nina Dominguez (Narrator Two), William Singerline (Daddy Bear), Olivia Britting (Mama Bear), Thomas Loschiavo (Baby Bear) Ryan Blore (Goldilocks), Avery Miller (Little Red Hen), Mackenzie Crandall (Dog), Mason Kaczorowski (Pig), Sean Pfeiffer (Duck) and Kyla Shearn (Narrator).
"It's a way to involve students in reading aloud," Vespoli said about Readers Theater. "In Readers Theater students perform by reading scripts created at grade-level reading. The goal is to enhance students' reading skills and confidence by having them read with a purpose. Most important is that it (Readers Theater) makes reading fun."
Vespoli's students certainly have fun with Readers Theater. Every Friday to mark Fun Friday, the class divides into groups, chooses a play and then practices before performing it for the rest of the class.
Generelli's class gave the Board of Education and audience members a peek into what Readers Theater looks like at the beginning of the school year.
"Goldilocks and the Three Bears is one of the first stories that the children learn to retell," Generelli explained. "They learned the first day of school that retelling is a way of reading. Being that it's (Goldilocks) a patterned kind of text and familiar to most of the kids, it's an easy one for them to recall and retell."
Generelli's students performed a scaled down version on the children's classic.
"This is hard work," Generelli continued. "Reading from a script is much different from books that the children are accustomed to reading."
Students initially learn what it means to read a script before combining listening and print skills to follow along and be able to come in at the correct time with their part.
Both plays went off without a hitch as the students proudly showed off their burgeoning reading skills to parents, family and members of the school board.
The Little Red Hen may do it herself, but it was quite clear that these young students had been working quite hard together with their classmates and teachers to discover all the opportunities the world of reading opens up.