The official school year may be on break but that does not stop ArtsConnection and 5,000 English learners taking advantage of the time off to continue reading books and exercising their second language skills. In partnership with the NYC Department of Education’s Division of English Language Learners and Student Support, ArtsConnection (AC) is engaging students grades 2-8 in 76 schools throughout all five boroughs for a five-week summer school program. AC is implementing a theater and puppetry curriculum based on the organization’s Developing English Language Literacy through the Arts (DELLTA) program aligned with Scholastic’s LitCamp texts.
The summer program’s theater residency strengthens vocabulary, speaking and listening skills and supports social-emotional growth, allowing students to act out and internalize the elements of a story as a precursor for writing. Students dramatize one book at each grade level. Grade-level books include My Name is Yoon, Roadrunner’s Dance, Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People, and Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions.
The NYC Department of Education offers families the summer program so students can continue to strengthen their English language literacy over the break. With our DELLTA instruction, English learners can expect to build ensemble and collaboration skills through theater warm-up exercises, experience theater activities that move from non-verbal, physical activities to more language dependent activities and boost their skills in physical, facial and vocal expression.
We have already seen progress in students who were initially shy and reluctant to participate, especially students who are newcomers to English. Well into week three, they are not only enthusiastic about participating in warm-up exercise but they are verbally engaged, using descriptive language to discuss a story’s characters, their feelings and characteristics, and acting out moments of the stories, reciting lines and physically using their bodies to act out emotions and reactions.
According to independent research conducted over multiple years, the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test scores showed that in classes where teachers and artists participate in the DELLTA program, students progress in language acquisition at a higher rate than those in a matched comparison group. DELLTA engages students in authentic arts-making experiences that provide opportunities for English learners to build literacy skills for comprehension and analysis; second language acquisition; knowledge across subjects by using ELA material as a jumping off point to bring text to life; and personal, social and cognitive skills intrinsic to the arts.
“NYC provides an ideal laboratory for exploring how arts learning can support English learners,” says ArtsConnection Executive Director Steven Tennen. “Nearly half of the students in the NYC public schools come from homes where English is not the primary language and over 160,000 of them are designated English learners.”