Each year, elementary schools across the country celebrate Read Across America by spending a week in March reading, studying, and celebrating a diverse array of books and authors while focusing on different themes throughout each story.
This year, a K-2 Language and Learning Disability class taught by Jasmine Saraison at Johnson Park Elementary School teamed up with Dan Walker’s Spanish 2 class at Hun for a comprehensive reading project recognizing differences and diversity through books.
When Mr. Walker began creating lesson plans around one of the more difficult subjects in Spanish, the preterite versus the imperfect, he was determined to find a way to make this topic engaging for his students.
“I was searching for an idea that would allow my students to showcase what they know about the language in a creative way,” he said. “I thought about having students write, illustrate, and present a variant of a fairy tale in Spanish to demonstrate their knowledge of the past tense. I then realized that I have a seven year old daughter in Ms. Saraison’s class who is part of a group of students who all love listening to stories.”
Mr. Walker notes that The Hun School has collaborated with Johnson Park Elementary School on multiple projects in the past and the idea of having an authentic audience of younger kids is always an added bonus for Hun students.
“It’s always fun to work outside of the Hun community especially, with Johnson Park,” he said. “For this assignment in particular, being able to present their work to a group of kids who find such joy in hearing new stories makes it that much more enjoyable for everyone.”
Before Mr. Walker’s students jumped into the process of writing their fairy tales, they had to learn what qualities go into creating a strong children’s book. Students learned how to develop compelling characters who evoke strong emotions, craft a story that teaches a valuable lesson, as well as use language, illustrations, and concepts that pushes readers outside of their comfort zone.
Once students finalized their concept and story, they then illustrated their children’s book using StoryJumper, an online tool that allows students to create a living version of their fairytale. Along with creating a digital version of their story, students also recorded voice overs of their books so that Ms. Saraison’s class can continue to read and comprehend each story.
Before Hun students departed for Spring Break, they met virtually with Ms. Saraison’s class to present their stories to her students. Students from both classes met in breakout rooms to read their stories in smaller groups as well as participate in a comprehension exercise.
Nicole Repko ’24 was appreciative of the opportunity to connect with younger children that she normally may not interact with on a regular basis through this project.
“I cherished the opportunity to read to the students at Johnson Park because I was able to not only have a better understanding of the material taught in my Spanish 2 class but I also got to meet and talk with young children,” she said. “Through this assignment, I realized that I’m a visual learner and creating a storybook using the grammar that Mr. Walker taught me was really effective for me. I also acknowledged how the children really enjoyed listening to the stories that our class created. It was a hands on learning experience that I hope to continue doing in future classes.”
Ms. Saraison notes that this collaboration was exceptionally fun for her students and she looks forward to a time where Hun students can join her class in person to do this again.
“My kids really enjoyed this exercise and it was a great way for us to celebrate Read Across America week,” Ms. Saraison said. “Of course, it’s difficult for any K-2 student to be able to understand a story in Spanish over Zoom so I am really hopeful that Hun students will join my class in the future to read their work to my students. Not to mention, I’m so thankful that Hun students created a sound recording and visuals to go along with their story so that we can continue to read, comprehend, and learn from these stories in my classroom.”