We build our programs on current thinking from cognitive neuroscience including theories from Fischer, Powers, and Vygotsky. These models guide us to design programs based on current research about how kids learn best. When building the Story Stage program at the University of Texas at Arlington under Dr. Marc Schwartz, Rebekah settled on these three guiding principles:
Learning should be anchored in a sensori-motor experience.
We learn best when all of our senses are engaged. At the beginning of trying to understand something, being able to see, hear, taste, or touch it gives us something to latch onto. It makes learning more concrete. We are accustomed to having these kinds of experiences in preschool and kindergarten, but they are no less important throughout the upper grades. In fact, it’s even more important as we try to understand more abstract concepts. At Story Stage, we integrate theater arts with reading and writing to build learning from a sensorimotor experience. With this, children see words come to life and build the foundations for understanding complex literature or writing research papers later. Check out this article from Edutopia for some great examples of building sensori-motor experiences into learning.
Feedback should be immediate and intrinsic to the activity.
We are feedback junkies! We operate from a teacher-as-guide perspective because we know that learning really happens when you figure stuff out for yourself. Think about driving somewhere you’ve never been before. Someone can tell you how to get there, but you don’t really learn the way until you’re behind the wheel. You got feedback from activity…driving. And it was pretty immediate if you ended up at the wrong location! At Story Stage, our goal is to design activities that allow mistakes and revisions to build understanding.
Children should practice using their knowledge with gradually decreasing support in variety of different contexts.
If you’ve never encountered the word gigantic but you memorize it for a vocabulary quiz, does that mean you can use it when you are at the zoo and see an elephant? Not likely. What if your practice with the word gigantic looked like this: First, your teacher tells you what gigantic means. Next, she asks you to draw a picture of something gigantic, and you draw your Labrador Retriever. After that, you have to bring a picture of something gigantic to Show & Tell. So you bring a picture of your Labrador Retriever, but your friend brings a picture of his Great Dane. (Oh, now your dog is big, but the Great Dane is gigantic!) Finally, your Dad takes you to the zoo, and you see that elephant. Your understanding of gigantic becomes even more complex. The Great Dane is now a gigantic dog, but the elephant is a gigantic animal. If the goal of school is to apply what you learn in increasingly challenging contexts, both in school and outside of school, then we have to teach with this transfer of knowledge in mind. At Story Stage we give kids the patterns they need to understand and tell stories. We practice basic skills like vocabulary and describing, then practice using those skills in larger, more complex contexts like stories.
With these principles in mind, our goals are…
To empower students with strong oral language foundations so that they can be successful readers, writers, and conversationalists in and out of school.
To build a community that understands and advocates for the important role that oral language skills play in our children’s academic and social success.
To partner with parents, teachers, and therapists to make building oral language skills easy, engaging, and accessible.
To create products and programs where learning oral language learning feels fun and natural, and feedback is immediate and organic.
We believe in:
- Feedback and revision
- Letting student ideas fuel the lesson
- Collaborating over competing
- Leading by guiding
- Embracing the chaos
- Being kind