Finding a Writer’s Voice

Project OverviewFinding a Writer’s Voice

Project Description

The purpose of the lesson is to provide the Visual and Performing Arts as a vehicle for creative expression in writing, while addressing the California Core Standards for First Grade Writing.

California Content Standards addressed in this unit:


  • 2.0 Creative Expression. Creating, performing, and participating in the Visual Arts by creating background sets and props.
  • 2.0 Creative Expression. Creating, performing, and participating in Theatre by demonstrating skills in pantomime, tableau, and improvisation and dramatizing their original scripts.
  • 2.1 Demonstrate skills in pantomime, tableau, and improvisation.

Common Core Standard addressed in this unit:

First Grade Writing: Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.

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Arendt, Carol

I was born in Lima, Peru and immigrated to the United States when I was five years old. I was the oldest of four children. I began kindergarten in Oakland, California as a Spanish speaker immersed into a foreign language and culture. I spent the first three years of school trying to make sense of my school experience and live up to my parents’ expectations. Fortunately, when I didn’t understand something in class, I was allowed to draw or paint in the back of the class. Although this is not a sound educational practice, I discovered my solace in creating different scenes on large thin newsprint paper.

The summer before fourth grade my life changed when my parents bought a home in the suburbs and we moved to the other side of the Hayward hills to the then-quiet little town of Dublin. That September, I was in Mrs. Mary Jane Hyde’s fourth class. We were taught to play recorders, recite poetry, sing folk songs and at the end of the year we performed Gilbert and Sullivan’s The HMS Pinafore. I learned to speak English in the context of a rich arts environment and that influenced the rest of my educational experience and the rest of my life.

I began my teaching career as a bilingual teacher’s assistant in a Special Day Class at Maie Ellis Elementary in Fallbrook, California. After a few years, I decided to get my teaching credential and upon completion, I returned to Maie Ellis as a bilingual teacher and used Visual Arts thematically to teach ELL students. This is my 17th year teaching and I continue to use the Arts in my teaching and always culminate the year with a literature-based musical theater presentation. Last year, it was Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and this year my first grade class will join some upper grade students in performing an adaptation of Gary Soto’s Chato’s Kitchen.

Outside of school, I challenge myself to learn a different art form over the summer. I recently learned to create broken china mosaics and decided to decorate my bathroom and kitchen cupboard doors with colorful mosaics. I go to VAPA workshops in Fresno County whenever possible to keep current on ways to infuse the Arts in my teaching.

About My Students

I teach in a low socioeconomic neighborhood school. Most students are within walking distance of the school. The neighborhood includes two churches. One of the churches partners with our school to provide school supplies for our students throughout the year and sports outreach events on the weekends. I teach 30 first grade students with a variety of learning styles and abilities. Their common strength is their openness to learn new things. My students are very active and need lots of movement to stay engaged during instruction. Over a third of my students are English Learners. Three of these students are Hmong and the rest are Spanish speaking. All of the Hmong parents understand English, but many of the Spanish speaking parents request that I communicate with them in Spanish.

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