Education column: Reading focus at La Casita

That deliciously crisp fall air means fall festivals and Halloween parties are in the works. Sylvia Martinez, principal at La Casita Elementary, shared plans for fall activities this year.

“For the last three years we have really been focusing on literacy and have tied classroom and school-wide activities to supporting reading.”

For example, La Casita will hold a Fall Literacy Festival instead of Halloween parties. Rather than having kids dress up as gruesome monsters and scary things, students at La Casita will dress up as storybook characters, and many will do presentations. The kids have to know about the character, having read the book or learned about the author. The idea is engaging for students who become highly motivated to read stories and books in preparation for choosing their character.

Many of the classroom happenings will tie into festival plans with a wide range of grade and age-appropriate activities. The kindergarten classes will read “101 Dalmatians,” after which they will decorate T-shirts and paint faces with parents’ help.

The first grade will dress up as a character from a book and present to their class.

The second grade’s theme is pumpkins, and lots of activities are planned around this squash relation that is popping up everywhere this time of year.

In language arts, the second-graders will read all about pumpkins and create a book with pumpkin facts, activities and poems. For math and science, second-graders will do pumpkin measurements; estimate the number of seeds on the inside; and carve the pumpkin. After removing the seeds, they’ll group them for counting. They’ll finish with eating a pumpkin pie.

The third-grade students will be dressing up as a character from a book and doing reports, followed by a character parade for parents. The fourth grade is planning a pajama party with their favorite book. They’ll be reading and sharing each book with the rest of the class.

The fifth grade has been studying heritage, and students will dress like characters or people from various cultures and do presentations. For example, if a student has chosen a flamenco dancer, they will present an aspect of the dance, such as its origins, the countries associated with the dance, the stories behind the music and so forth.

The sixth-grade classes at La Casita will be doing studies of authors who write scary stories, followed by associated activities.

La Casita’s philosophy of involving parents as much as possible is paying off. On Oct. 20 there will be a Parent Night with student-led workshops and demonstrations of the classroom learning centers, focusing on reading elements. In the most recent Parent Advisory Council meeting, teachers and parents broke into smaller groups to work on specific strategies for supporting literacy from home. Teachers shared techniques for framing questions and using discussion points for helping children with their reading at home.

Zig Ziglar noted, “Kids go where there is excitement. They stay where there is love.”

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at: