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Bringing Standards to Life: Creating a Garden of Curiosity

October 22 & 24, 2015

Kurt Wootton is the author of A Reason to Read : Linking Literacy and the Arts; Co-Founder of the Arts Literacy Project at Brown University; and Director of Habla: Center for Language and Culture in Merida, Mexico. He is a leading national 
expert on using multisensory strategies to build literacy.
Debbi Arseneaux is an Educational Constultant and Teaching Artist with The Learning Alliance. She has been a teacher in the Washington DC public school district and worked as a professional Theatre Teaching Artist and Director in the DC area for over 15 years.

"Engagement + Creativity + Enthusiasm = Love of Learning."

"All of the activities are powerful and I plan to use them!"

- Teacher Comments

Preview key words, phrases and ideas in the text through a technique called "Call and Response." See detailed instructions for this and other Entering Text activities at

Building community through a variety of foundational activities and activating strategies helps to create a fertile environment for bringing standards to life. We used our "Actor's Tools" (body, voice, mind and imagination) to act out key  vocabulary from our story, The Curious Garden.  Detailed instructions HERE.

A Mind Map is an interactive, participatory way to synthesize information and ideas around a big question or theme. For details on how to facilitate the creation of a mind map, click HERE

CENTERS: Extending the Literacy Experience

Teachers were guided through a series of connected literacy experiences structured around centers, or small group work, similar to what students experience in the classroom. These included standards based activities that were both independent and teacher led. 

 The complete list of books in the Independent Reading Center can be found HERE. The accompanying worksheets included: I Am poem (pdf), Asking & Answering Questions (pdf), Color Symbol Image (pdf) and Doodles & Sketches (pdf).


Educators explored how to generate big ideas and meaningful essential questions by writing down ideas on large leaves while listening to the story. After sorting and grouping their big ideas, they brainstormed inspirational essential questions to guide their thinking.   


Using their I Am Poems as a guide, participants engaged in a Role Play as the main character from the stories they read, demonstrating their understanding of the key details of a biographical text. All of the texts were selected because they featured individuals who changed their world through curiosity, inquiry and wonder, thus exploring our essential question: How do we change our world?

Bringing standards to life in school: student work
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