Vibrant Voices Bring Stories to Life

It was a dramatic and noisy autumn afternoon in Katie Bowman and Alana Cimillo's Kindergarten class. A trio of goats trotted, a mean troll snarled and an old bridge creaked and swayed. With the students' eager participation, a favorite folktale leapt off the pages and sprang to life. "We are going to act out 'The Three Billy Goats Gruff!'" Ms. Bowman announced as her students cheered with excitement.

At Chapin, Reading Workshop is an essential component of the Lower School curriculum through which each of the three Kindergarten classes begins to develop lifelong reading skills in imaginative ways. Lately, Ms. Bowman and Ms. Cimillo have led the girls in reading "old favorite story books," which are books that have been enjoyed by many generations. "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" is one such story.

With its colorful pages enlarged on the classroom screen, the teachers began reading aloud to their students, who listened carefully from their spots on the carpet. The action-packed events immediately captured their attention. When a designated moment in the story arrived, it was the girls' turn to shine. All at once, half the class turned to their partners and, channeling their fiercest troll voices, inquired, "Who's that tripping over my bridge?" Next, the other half had their chance to perform the troll line and did so with gusto.

As the story went on, the students took turns projecting their most convincing voices for all of the characters. Along with the temperamental troll, the tale features the three goats, expressed through a tiny voice, a medium voice and a booming voice for the final one. "Remember, this is the big guy," stated Ms. Cimillo. "Let's practice using a roaring voice." The Kindergarten students gladly bellowed and growled and snarled. The sound of the weathered bridge, which plays a pivotal role in the story, was also conveyed through the girls' animated voices – "C-r-e-a-k!" they screeched, drawing out each letter for emphasis.

When "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" reached its momentous conclusion (spoiler alert: the troll gets his comeuppance), the entire class joined together saying "Snip, snap, snout. This tale's told out," thereby wrapping up the story and this entertaining part of Reading Workshop.

When the class returned to the carpet to talk about their experiences, the teachers asked for a few volunteers to share bits from other favorite storybooks, which were displayed on the screen. Each confidently and expressively performed her lines. "It takes a lot of bravery to use your voice in front of the whole class," praised Ms. Cimillo.

Along with helping to instill a lifetime love of language, this engaging lesson in Reading Workshop stands out as a beautiful illustration of this year's School theme, "Our Future, Our Voices." In ways large and small, Chapin's youngest students are learning to value their own thoughts, opinions, talents and, yes, their clear and strong voices.

Click HERE to view photos from the class.