Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA

by Story Tapestries Inc.


Thank you so much for being part of this project with us. We could not accomplish all that we do without your support.

One of our artists, Suzanne Richard, recently had a wonderful experience working with the VSA though the Kennedy Center. Below are some notes from her interactions but you can read the full story HERE.


Arts integration in special education seems so fundamental to me that I welcomed the chance to present at a series of Professional Development programs on that very subject.  Thanks to a grant from VSA Arts, Arianna Ross and I, of Story Tapestries, had the chance to share the ideas of Embodied Storytelling to groups of teachers who I knew would benefit immensely from this work.  The inclusion of multiple styles of learning are vital to a well-rounded education. That benefit increases exponentially when dealing with students whose various disabilities may affect their ability to receive and retain information in a traditional classroom culture...

With the first, larger group, after introducing them to our basic embodied storytelling tools which, among other things, allow teachers and aides to create a collaborative and focused work environment, develop and enhance the acquisition of new vocabulary, and begin to get them to explore kinesthetic modes of learning, we focused on exploring texts that illuminate different scientific processes...


First they were asked to draw, in pictures, the elements of this paragraph (main idea, supporting details and conclusion) on a graphic chart we gave them. Then they put together a presentation of these paragraphs for the rest of the room with each person embodying a different element of the paragraph. The end result was a tableau at the end of the process...

It was a beautiful example of the existence of different styles of learning and the value of arts being integrated into daily learning activities. During reflection time at different points in the program, teachers and aides shared with their colleagues specific areas where they thought our activities could really enhance the learning experience and foster retention in their classrooms. By the end of the workshop, many of these ideas were coming from former skeptics and the whole group was engaged.

A smaller group of elementary school teachers required a different approach...

For example, as we focused on the process of metamorphosis with this group, we took them on an imaginary physical journey around the classroom as butterflies, visiting different colored flowers and creating a world to embody the story in.  The sheer silliness of the activity allowed for laughter and commentary in an active process that was also easily identified as a fun activity for their students.


As the target student age of this group was younger, we had them work on a sentence about one aspect of the process and then illustrating that concept on a graphic.  Once they were broken into groups, they each presented their sentence as a part of a group. Although it was not a competitive atmosphere, even the “cool kid” in the back of the room took great pride in showing what he had created as part of a group and by the end, everyone was eager to share how they thought this work could be applied in their classrooms...

All teachers can enrich their classrooms using Embodied Storytelling.  But more importantly, the creation of inclusive classrooms in any classroom environment can add to the power of arts integration.


If you LOVE this project please share this report with friends and family, or simply mention Story Tapestries in conversation. 

Your support makes ALL of the following possibile. We thank you So very much for each and every donation you give.


We have just a few days left for the applicants for the Maryland State Arts Counsil (MSAC) Grant. We, in partnership with Young Audiences of Maryland, are working with a number of schools to apply for the grant and plan Residencies for the school year 2015-2016. For a portion of these schools they do not have enough funds on their own to participate in the MSAC Matching funds grant. Because of this project, you support here on Global Giving, we at Story Tapestries are able to assist those schools and bring "their funds" up to the matching amount. With more schools contacting us daily here are some of the schools your donations are helping so far:

  • Kent Island Elementary School
  • Lakelands Parks Middle School
  • Leonardtown Elementary School
  • Overlook Elementary School
  • Oakwood Elementary School
  • Fruitland Primary Elementary School 


These Residencies are exactly what this project is all about. Your contributions are bring Literacy via the arts into the schools. We see every day the change an impact in both the students and teachers lives when we incorporate art strategies with the Common Core. The students are increasing their global awareness, creativity, innovation, critical thnking, problem solving collaboration, technology, life and career skills as we work with them. They are developing their self confidences as they see themselves learn and apply the skills we are teaching.


When we build these residencies we customize them to meet the needs for the class and the cirrculum. Here are a few of the types of residencies that we use. You can also check out our videos here or see this exciting NEW video.  

  • Math+Arts Integration=Empowered Math Understanding
  • Wonderfully Ridiculous Letter Stories: Using Creative Writing and Storytelling to Motivate and Improve Literacy
  • Discovering the Power of the Written Word:  Creating Visual Storytelling with a Combination of Visual art and Creative Writing
  • Discovering the Power of the Written Word: Using Creative Writing and Storytelling to Motivate Students to Become Authors
  • STEM plus Arts=Learning Full STEAM Ahead:  Using Story, Movement and Visual Images to explain the Principles of Science
  • STEM plus Arts=Learning Full STEAM Ahead:  A Highly Engaging Kinesthetic Exploration of the Scientific Process
  • His-story, Her-Story, Our-Story: Explaining history through writing, drama and dance
  • Stories-in-Motion= Fiction and Non-fiction plus Dance and Story, which brings to the end goal of Comprehension

Again, thank you for your support and continued donations making this project possible.


If you know of anyone who would love to be part of this project please forward this to them.

Your participation in our projects to combine LIteracy and the Arts is making progress and showing instant results in each classroom we can connect with. Thank you so much for your continued support of these events and workshops. Here is an excerpt of our latest experiences, to read the FULL story go here Story Tapestries Blog:

"I look at this text and I feel like I just have to get through it" sighs a frustrated third grade teacher.
"My kids love goofing around and are very creative, I just need help fuzing their experience of an activity to comprehension of the subject" says an enthusiastic fourth grade teacher.
"This is very uncomfortable for me, but I know my students respond to these types of things, so I'm trying to make it work" says a hesitant media specialist, who works with various grade levels.

These are just a few of the comments made in my initial planning conferences with teachers at Sebastian Elementary in Sebastian, Florida. These teachers and I were about to embark on a week long embedded residency process to help them better be able to incorporate theatre arts strategies into their non fiction units. I don't think any of us anticipated what a rewarding week it would be! 

...In all three classes, we had grade level appropriate space and Earth sciences related texts. We looked at each text and each grade levels' specific literacy goals and together we extracted activities to support those goals. I spent time both modeling and supporting them leading these activities in their classrooms. I also gave the teachers tips and techniques to be able to implement the activities without me.




...We saw student successes in each classroom, each day. We saw small victories in engaging students who they tell me don't typically demonstrate such enthusiasm, and large victories in watching students who don't generally engage at all getting up and sharing something they just learned.  The teachers asked their students if they wanted to more activities like they had been doing this week and they were met with a resounding "YES!"  In fact, each one of them told me that they had already tried out at least one activity in another class, and one of the teachers had already set up a planning meeting with the other teachers in her grade team to collaborate around how they can implement some of the strategies in the next unit.


Showing Excitement in Learning

Showing Excitement in Learning


By the end of the week,  I saw the teachers go from hesitant, but curious, to enthusiastic and excited. They saw first hand the powerful impact the arts can have on engaging and empowering their students with standards based learning, and without taking time away from mandated schedule chunks.

"It's been eye opening. I can't wait to try this out with the next book" says the newly energized third grade teacher.
"Before I was clueless and excited, now I'm focused and excited. I'm excited about things that weren't really exciting to me before" gushes the thrilled fourth grade teacher.
"I just need practice. It helped to see how they responded. If you are in drama, you are using the same skills as reading" says the optimistic media specialist, making a commitment to push through her hesitation.

We as teaching artists can't be in every classroom, but if we can keep turning the light on, one teacher at time, then we can reach more and more classrooms, slowly shifting the climate. These teachers then become the best advocates for more arts integration in their schools, and the more we can empower them, the more that light gets sparked in their colleagues. And ultimately, the more students we can all reach and more fully engage in their own learning.

This is how we change our education system...one classroom at a time, with thoughtful, passionate and caring teachers who never stop learning themselves.


Thank you again for continuing to bring the Arts into the lives of our communities.


If you love being part of this project please send it to a friend who can love supporting it too.


What’s the best ways to teach students literacy through spoken word poetry? Have the mentors they look up to practice those poetic skills first. Recently, I led six Silver Spring YMCA youth workers through different strategies they’ll use to promote active reading, critical questioning, improvisation, differentiation, and peer review— and it was all done through the analysis and lens of spoken word poetry.

The morning began with mentors learning active reading strategies that they used to explicate and discuss a poem. Then the YMCA youth workers wrote, recited, and responded to their own poetry.

Participant Annotating and Writing Poem

Participant Annotating and Writing Poem

Although many of the participants were uncomfortable at first (performing Spoken Word can be nerve-racking!), they quickly jumped into the activities that they themselves will be leading in February with their students. The youth workers got to feel the pressure of writing and reading and performing and also the success of creating work they could be proud of.

The activity that proved most rewarding (and the one the youth workers were most of afraid of)? The freestyle cypher. The Youth workers all circled up and were led through a series of exercises that culminated with them freestyle rapping and rhyming with one another. The goal was to let loose any pretenses of “good enough” and allow for spontaneous creation and collaboration. And as any good cypher session should end, it culminated with laughter and relief that something seemingly insurmountable was accomplished.


YCMA Staff Leading and Participating in a Hip-Hop Cypher

One mentor said, “I can’t wait to see what our students will write. I’m really excited to share this with them.”

So am I! I look forward to seeing how the spoken word poetry strategies will promote students’ literacy and collaboration. Right on, YMCA!


If you love this project please share with a friend and encourage them to be a donor 

Literacy Music!
Literacy Music!

Happy 2015!

We hit the ground running this year and are already deep into building our programs and services bigger and better for the New Year. According to the National Council on Teachers of English Standards for the English Language Arts, “To participate fully in society and the workplace in 2020, citizens will need powerful literacy abilities that until now have been achieved by only a small percentage of the population.” The time is now for students master these skills!

While the nation’s overall dropout rate is declining, Secretary Arne Duncan has stated that the dropout rate is still “unsustainably high for a knowledge-based economy and still unacceptably high in our African-American, Latino, and Native-American communities.” This means it is more important than ever for us to continue moving forward in our work of  teaching literacy through the arts, especially for these communities who have limited access to such educational resources.

Truthfully, some days our work is a challenge....students are distracted, teachers over-burdened with testing, administrators taxed over managing the every-changing moving parts of the school system...BUT...every time we hear a positive response from a teacher about how our work has helped motivate them to think about old lessons in a new way, or every time a student gleefully proclaims the correct answer to a once daunting question..we remember, THIS is why we must go on! THIS is why we LOVE our work. 

But you don't have to just take my word for it, check out these quotes about Arianna and Story Tapestries.......

“She creates an environment where the children feel safe to take risks and grow from their mistakes. It is with her soft yet strong voice that guides the children.”

            -Franklin Wassmer, Principal, Washington DC

“Thank you for inspiring me to remember how I used to teach.”

            -Jen Flores, 1st Grade Teacher, Barrett Elementary School, VA

 “They sat in awe! She exceeded our expectations. We want her back next year!!”

            -Adrian Blount, Administrator, Ideal Academy, Washington DC

Family learning
Family learning

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Organization Information

Story Tapestries Inc.

Location: Germantown, MD - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.storytapestries.com/​
Project Leader:
Arianna Ross
Germantown, Maryland United States
$28,634 raised of $45,000 goal
626 donations
$16,366 to go
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