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Students improve reading skills with folk tale performances
Lyman Hall Elementary School students Johan Vargas, left, Jose Mendozas, center, and Jazmin Vazquez perform as part of a folk tales program at the school.

What happened when the Three Little Kittens met the Little Red Hen?

They put on a show.

In Marla Fouts’ first-grade class at Lyman Hall Elementary School, 18 students performed traditional folk tales and nursery rhymes on Friday for their parents. Using Readers Theater, the students read from scripts they have practiced at school.

“Some students are really stubborn about improving reading skills, and they have come so far this year,” Fouts said. “Practice improves fluency, and they feel comfortable, so they can then read with expression.”

The method has become popular in classrooms in the past few years as a way to improve students’ speaking and reading skills. In Fouts’ class, the students also painted settings on large sheets of paper and colored pictures of their assigned characters to wear as costumes.

“It has really helped to draw the parents in,” Fouts said. “With a language barrier, sometimes the parents don’t feel like they can help or get involved, and this has helped to achieve the bridge between school and home.”

Fouts also bolstered first-grade knowledge of folk tales when she applied for a grant from Target to sponsor a field trip to the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts in February. Most students couldn’t afford the ticket price, and the grant helped 120 first-graders attend a showing of “Paul Bunyan & The Tall Tale Medicine Show.”

“Folk tales are part of the first-grade reading performance standards,” Fouts said. “Because they are sometimes long and hard to understand, the ability to visually see the tales improved the students’ comprehension.”

The field trip also helped the students to see more of the world.

“Some of them haven’t seen much beyond Gainesville, and this was the first time a few of them have seen overpasses and tall city buildings,” she said. “We made truck drivers honk and pointed out things that other elementary school students grow up seeing. It was a fantastic experience.”

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