Posts Tagged ‘literacy’


Arts Learning Grant Recipient

May 25, 2018

The Telling Room

The Telling Room is a recipient of an Arts Learning grant this year from the Maine Arts Commission. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit their site in Portland not long ago. It was charged with creativity and excitement for learning. While visiting a group of students from the Biddeford Schools Gifted and Talented program were participating in a lesson. I had the opportunity to observe, participate, and speak to the participants. I also had the chance to meet with the staff and they kindly followed up with information that is included in this blog post. Thank you all for your contributions!
Suzanne Tighe, Biddeford teacher, has worked with the Telling Room staff for three years.
Thank you for helping to support the Telling Room. This is my 3rd year bringing students to the Telling Room or having them come to my school. My students always look forward to the visits.  My 5th graders this year did not get to visit with Marjo and they were so disappointed. She has been my contact person for the past three years. She has always made it a point to get to know the students and they feel that connection. One of my boys, a reluctant writer, was so looking forward to working with Marjo this part Monday. He wanted her to be the one to help him develop his writing.
I feel that the greatest benefit for the students is the level of investment they have in their writing after working with them. This interest and excitement about writing is then transferred to their every day writing. The students never know who they will be able to work with; a writer, photographer, a musician, artist or poet. This allows my students to work with adults who have a range of interests. Many of my students play musician interments or are gifted in the visual arts.  The opportunity to work with these artists is a wonderful experience.
For myself, its a great way to see some new ideas or see some old techniques reinvented. This allows me to use these techniques with other students. Its also an opportunity to talk about writing with a colleague and share ideas.

Marjolaine Whittlesey is a Teaching Artist Associate

Marjolaine Whittlesey is a Teaching Artist Associate at the Telling Room and worked with Suzanne’s students at the school and again on the day I visited at the Telling Room.

During a field trip to the Telling Room students get to experience the art of writing in a greater context than what they see in the classroom. They get to work alongside adult writers and see the plethora of publishing done by peers their age and other students from around the state. When they walk into our space they often comment on how it feels comfortable and creative, “like my home.”

Our space and our programing serves to create a safe space for each student to explore their own unique voice, which opens them up to their creative selves. Our programs often start with generative work that allows each student to find a way into the writing process. Our activities and warm ups strive to reach various learning types so that any student can feel inspired and successful. Our focus on writing as mostly rewriting is a skill that will serve any student throughout their whole life. We present revision as focused play rather than tedious work. Hopefully that sticks!

My hope is that each student remembers the excitement and pride they felt around writing and sharing. I hope that they can remember specific details about what they wrote or heard in others’ stories. Even if they can’t remember an exact writing exercise, my goal is that each student leaves a TR program being more curious about the world and their experience in it.

Students come to The Telling Room on a Field Trip with their class as a three hour experience. I love to hear when they return to school and continue to work on the pieces they started during the Field Trip and it becomes a bigger part of their classroom experience back at school. We had one student enjoy the writing they did with us in their Field Trip so much that they asked to return to The Telling Room for a Summer Camp — and then they followed that up with a semester-long afterschool program! They discovered that they loved to write and found a space to continue developing that love at The Telling Room.
Nick Schuller is the Program Director at The Telling Room.
Sometimes we hear that “today’s young people” have difficulty receiving feedback or being told “no,” and that constant exposure to screens impedes their natural curiosity. Our work in field trips like this one counteracts those concerns: rather than shutting down because of constructive criticism, our young writers are encouraged to see an opportunity for new creative expression. We hope they’ll see that inviting diverse voices into the feedback process can foster collaboration and ultimately the product will be stronger as a result.

I always hope that we light a spark, and that field trip attendees will go back to school with a new energy for writing. I also hope that all of the students received a confidence boost from knowing that they can engage in the revision process and come out feeling encouraged.

Sarah Schneider is the Development Director at the Telling Room.
The opportunity to encounter writing in a new way—either through games and activities, other art forms like theater and performance, or simply being in a new space with time to write—can free up students to think in new ways and engage their imagination. Even reluctant writers often begin to open up in a field trip as they learn and practice writing a story they want to tell and that people will be eager to hear.

One of the key things students get to do with us, even on field trips, is share their writing—a whole piece, or even just a word or a sentence—with their peers. Getting a chance to share the story or poem they’ve been working on with an audience is a big part of building confidence. I hope that students remember that they can be bold and take a leap out of their comfort zone—in both writing and sharing their work—to discover things they didn’t know were inside them and to share their stories and voices with all of us.

Celine Kuhn is the Executive Director at the Telling Room.
I hope that students will remember that we offered them a safe and creative space to write for fun, tell their stories and find their voice. What we do every day is equip kids to succeed in and out of school.

Vinalhaven 2nd and 3rd Graders

October 30, 2017


LEAPS of IMAGINATION is an in-school art program for students in underserved communities. Our team of eight mentor artists interweaves art, literacy, science and mapping to create month-long projects with environmental sustainability and social justice as overarching themes.

Recognizing that art is a vehicle for teaching thinking, our projects support class curricula and empower children to participate in local and global issues. We work with children in their classrooms for two hours each morning twice each week. Envisioning programs that cut across disciplines, artists dovetail literature, environmental exploration, and artwork with student interests.

LEAPS of IMAGINATION’s MISSION is to ignite the imagination and inspire new ways of thinking so that young people can realize that their ideas have purpose and that they have the courage to act on them.

LEAPS of IMAGINATION was a Maine Arts Commission Arts Learning grant recipient this year.


Who Are They? Portland Stage – Part 3

October 11, 2017


Portland Stage, located in Portland, Maine, offers vital theater arts education to learners ages 4-18 through our In-Theater and In-School programming. All classes and workshops are taught by professionally trained Teaching Artists and focus on literacy, cultural awareness, collaborative play, and creative thinking. Our teaching philosophy highlights process over product, deepening students’ ability to analyze, synthesize, and think critically while making connections to the thoughts and ideas behind the written word. This is one of a series of 6 blog posts outlining who we are and what we do, brought to you by Hannah Cordes, Education Manager, and Julianne Shea, Education Administrator. These posts will appear September 27 through November 1, 2017, on Wednesday’s.

Education Artists Bess Welden and Julia Fitzgerald at a Play in Schools dramatic reading Photo by Aaron Flacke

Portland Stage’s PLAY in Schools program brings children’s books to life through a school-wide dramatic reading, followed by interactive classroom workshops. The goal of PLAY is to connect theater with literacy by making literature performative and encouraging character recall, understanding of themes, emotional recognition, physical storytelling, and vocal characterization. We actively engage students in small groups/workshops using their bodies, voices, and imaginations to build understanding of the text while bringing the stories and characters to life.

Each school-wide dramatic reading includes three picture books and two poems centered on a theme. These themes range from Choosing Kindness to Made in Maine. It is exciting to explore books that young people know well and to introduce them to new stories. During the 2016-2017 season, we included Chris Van Dusen’s The Circus Ship. Each time we announced the title of this book at the all-school assemblies, the room would erupt in cheers. Beverly Coursey, the principal at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, said it was like when Billy Joel announces that he will be performing “Piano Man”! There is nothing quite like listening to a room full of elementary school students laugh at a particularly funny story or moment! It is a privilege to witness this reaction to so many engaging stories. We ask each audience to pay attention to the three actor tools (Portland Stage defines these three tools as body, voice, and imagination) that will be used during the reading. That way when the students enter the workshop, they are prepared and empowered to explore their own actor tools to bring the story alive in their own way.

We then give students the chance to dive further into these works during workshops with our professional teaching artists. We are delighted by students’ thoughts and creations as they explore their actor tools through the texts and characters. On our third and final visit of the year to one classroom, the students were invited to write their own versions of Holly Meade’s If I Never Forever Endeavor. After a year of exploring their actor tools with Portland Stage Teaching Artists, the students wrote this poem:

“If I never endeavor to perform, I won’t get to try and be brave.
If I did endeavor to perform, I could play with my voice, my body, and my imagination!”

Nathan Pike from Ocean Avenue Elementary stated that his students’ “creativity, physical movement, and imagination” when engaging with stories “has dramatically improved since participation in the PLAY workshops. Portland Stage has become a vital component to the culture and learning of our students.”

Education Manager Hannah Cordes in a Play in Schools Workshop Photo by Aaron Flacke

Theatrically exploring text can help students find a new way in to reading. Alec Lapidus, PhD, and Heba Ahmed from the Literacy, Language, and Culture Program at University of Southern Maine produced a report on the PLAY program titled Multiliteracies in Maine: The Play Me a Story Program. They state that “PLAY caters to a wide array of learning styles and linguistic backgrounds, offering a variety of ways to interact with content, explore new ideas and concepts, and create meaningful output…As the learners use their body, voice, and imagination to observe, analyze, interpret, and express thoughts on the world around them, they become able to go beyond passively absorbing information provided to them…This multiliteracy approach is clearly indicative of the program’s awareness of the changing linguistic and sociocultural landscape not only in Maine, but also in the United States in general.” It is powerful to create a space were students can get excited about text in a new way. We hear feedback from teachers that reinforces the idea that for many students PLAY has opened a door for them. A 4th grade teacher shared with us, “This student struggles to remember letters, sight words, and other information. With the PLAY program, he could remember EVERY word and act out the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I know now how to teach letters, sound, math, sight vocabulary, etc. To this student!”

We are continually grateful to be able to bring theater to elementary school students through this program. Witnessing students get excited about literature, see professional actors fearlessly use their bodies, voices, and imaginations, and explore their own actor tools during the workshop is a joyful experience.

Interested in learning more about this program? Email or call 207-774-1043 ext. 104


Cross Discipline Literacy Network

October 10, 2013

Online and face to face opportunities

Pam Ouellette (Lisbon High School), Suzanne Goulet (Waterville Sr. High School) and Lisa Gilman (Winthrop Middle School) continue to be a part of presenting collaborative professional development regarding literacy.

Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 10.27.21 PMVocabulary Instruction – grades 6-12 (Lisa G.)

Webinar 1: December 9, 3:00 – 4:00pm

Big and Practical Ideas About Academic Vocabulary in the Classroom

Description: How do we motivate students to see new meaning in words? When they learn the word “composition” in art, can they then transfer it to a social studies term when speaking about the composition of a community? What does it mean to write a musical composition, and how does that differ from composing an essay… or how are they the same? This webinar will provide an overview of ideas about how a teacher can go about selecting and assessing student vocabulary through five big ideas: Intentionality, Transparency, Usability, Personalization and Prioritization. The first webinar will highlight ideas on how to make vocabulary instruction intentional and transparent and offer strategies that can be used immediately in your own classrooms. Be ready to share your ideas, too.

Webinar 2: January 13, 4:30 – 5:30pm

More Practical Ideas about Academic Vocabulary in the Classroom

Description: This webinar will review the five big ideas of vocabulary instruction and delve into strategies for making vocabulary instruction usable, personal and a priority. Suggestions for implementation will be presented by three teachers of different subject areas and grade levels. Cross-curricular as well as subject-specific vocabulary strategies, will be explored. The teachers will share their experiences with concrete examples from their own classrooms. Again, be ready to share your ideas and experiences, too.

Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 9.28.56 PM


Archived Webinars: CDLN

May 31, 2013

Wrapped up with a bow!


Jen Nash, K-8 music educator, Etna-Dixmont, RSU 19

Lisa Gilman, 7-12 art educator, Winthrop Middle and High School, AOS 97

Suzanne Goulet, art educator, Waterville Senior High School

The three visual and performing arts educators hosted 4 webinars during the 2012-14 school year for the Cross Discipline Literacy Network. They did a fabulous job planning and facilitating the webinars that illustrated the connections between the arts and literacy from multiple angles and integration methods.

They invited guests to participate as well so there was a wealth of information shared on each webinar from people with tons of knowledge. Guests included: Catherine Ring, Jude Valentine, Katrina Billings, Pam Ouellette, Karen Montanaro, and Jake Sturtevant.

Fortunately the webinars are archived so you can access them alone or perhaps with your colleagues. It would be a great way to spend professional development time with colleagues in your building, district, or region. Each webinar provides a place to start a conversation and continue with work you might have underway with literacy, the Common Core ELA, integration, and much more.

The webinar are listed below along with the links where you can access them.


Lisa Gilman


Jen Nash


Suzanne Goulet


Cross Discipline Literacy Network

March 20, 2013


We know Spring is coming and so is another wonderful opportunity to connect with other Arts educators in the third Cross Discipline Literacy Network webinar.  Even if you have not joined the conversation before please feel free to “drop in” and learn about what literacy in the Arts classroom is and can be.

Thursday, March 21st, 3 PM to 4PM
                                                       The “L” iteracy Word

The following is for connecting to the webinar:
To join the meeting:

1.    Go online to

2.    Select ‘Enter as a Guest’ and type your name in the corresponding field.

3.    To listen and speak during the meeting, you will need to be connected by telephone:

·         The meeting can call you at a phone number you provide at log-in, or

·         You can dial directly into the meeting: 1-877-455-0244, Passcode 8332185782.  (Use this second option when joining the meeting from sites where your phone can only be reached through a switchboard.)


Cross Discipline Literacy Network

September 28, 2012

Questions to Ponder

  • Are you looking for specific literacy activities and resources?
  • Do you use school wide tools and wonder how to adapt them?
  • Do you have a word wall?
  • Do you wonder about visual literacy and how your students are visual learners?

If you are interested in learning more, now is your chance to act by joining the Cross Discipline Literacy Network (CDLN). Registration is open until October 5th! Literacy tools and strategies can provide opportunities for students to go deeper in to their learning.

Consider this image taken from the Waterville High School principles and elements of design reference sheet.

Imagine this with the entire list of elements and principles. The list used in conjunction with a graphic organizer, you could implement/modify for students use and make available when reflecting or describing visual artworks.

An excellent and elegant example of a graphic organizer from the Smithsonian.
The CDLN is an excellent opportunity in adapting and modifying existing resources for your use to improve learning.

Does your school have a literacy mission and is not sure how to “make this work” in the arts?

Insist that you are part of your school initiative………This professional development may help you to take advantage of a great opportunity to show how valuable the arts are – perhaps even to lead.

Looking for professional development and an opportunity to get together and share strategies in a collaborative environment? The network is led by facilitators understanding that there is much to share and learn. Three of your colleagues will be facilitating the webinars representing the elementary level is Etna-Dixmont music educator Jen Nash, Winthrop Middle School visual art educator Lisa Gilman, and Waterville High School visual art educator Suzanne Goulet.

The cost is $25 for the year and provides you with multiple opportunities for webinars and face to face gatherings for discussing your experiences and discoveries in improving student learning. The webinars will also be archived. Information describing the CDLN, the face to face locations, and the webinar strands,  as well as the link to register for this opportunity can be found at:

You can register by clicking here. UNTIL OCTOBER 5! For more information on the CDLN and the Literacy for ME initiative please click here.


Cross Discipline Literacy Network

August 30, 2012

  • Looking for low cost, high quality professional learning connected to Maine’s learning standards and your daily instructional practice?
  • Eager to engage in collaborative study with colleagues across the state to fine tune your teaching?
  • Interested in a combination of face-to-face conversation and technology-based learning experiences?

If you answered yes to these questions, the Cross Discipline Literacy Network is for you.  This professional learning network will foster literacy practices that support learning across content areas.  The goal of the literacy network is to provide K-12 educators access to professional learning communities focused on content literacy strategies that:

  • Build capacity for educators to engage in collaborative, reflective study around literacy practices that benefit content area teaching and learning;
  • Promote ongoing literacy learning and sharing among professionals across content areas from across Maine; and
  • Increase student achievement of learning standards through improved literacy instruction across content areas.

The network will operate regionally across the state, utilizing both online webinar sessions interspersed between face-to-face networking sessions.  The webinar portion of the network will require participants to select literacy strands on which to focus their study throughout the year.  The literacy strands will support the Common Core State Standards for ELA and Literacy Across the Disciplines, and will include both content area focused strands (e.g. science, social studies, math, etc.) and general literacy strands (e.g. text complexity, writing instruction, and word study). Webinars will be developed and delivered by MDOE content specialists and Maine educators with discipline specific expertise at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  Participants will be expected to connect webinar content to their practice and to share evidence of this application during face to face meetings. Additionally, some webinars may require text reading of web-based articles or professional texts (to be purchased separately by participants). Webinar presentations will be held afterschool and archived so that participants can watch them again and/or obtain the content at a later time if they miss the live presentation.  Dates of webinar sessions will be sent to participants by October 1, 2012.

Participants will also select a local site at which they will attend face-to-face sessions three times throughout the 2012-13 school year. These sessions will provide participants with the opportunity to engage in extended conversations related to a variety of literacy practices and topics connected to the literacy strands on which they are focusing their study.  Opportunities for text discussions, sharing instructional strategies and student work, and networking with other educators will be abundant during these sessions which will run from 4:00-5:30 p.m.  Conversations and sharing at local sites will be facilitated by trained educators, and sites will be organized to support educators from the K-5, 6-12, or K-12 grade spans.

Finally, participants in the Cross Discipline Literacy Network will also have the opportunity to connect with local site colleagues and literacy strand colleagues via an online networking platform,, that will be introduced during the first face-to-face session.

To register, visit where you can view the 2012-13 Cross Discipline Literacy Network master schedule, literacy strand options, and local site options.  Once you know which site and which webinar strand(s) you want to select, click the registration button to complete the online registration.  Registration cost is $25 for the year (includes face-to-face sessions and up to 2 webinar strands).  The registration deadline is October 5, 2012.   For additional information, please contact:  Lee Anne Larsen ( or 624-6628.


Cross Connections Literacy Network

June 21, 2012

The Arts and Literacy

The Maine Department of Education has sponsored two literacy networks during the past six years-the Literacy Leaders Network and the Maine Content Literacy Network. Both of these networks were developed as part of grant initiatives.  In an effort to consolidate the best practices from both networks and expand the network to serve educators statewide across the K-12 span, a new literacy network is being planned for the 2012-13 school year. This network will continue to serve as a professional learning network focused on literacy practices that support learning across content areas.  The purpose of the literacy network will be to provide K-12 educators with a professional learning community focused on content literacy strategies that will:

  • Build capacity for educators to engage in reflective study around literacy practices that benefit content area teaching and learning;
  • Promote ongoing literacy learning and sharing among professionals across content areas from across Maine; and
  • Increase achievement of all students through improved literacy instruction across content areas.

The network will be operated regionally across the state, utilizing both face-to-face networking sessions and online webinar sessions. Local sites will be organized to support educators from the K-5 or 6-12 grade spans. Participants will also select topics on which to focus their learning from a variety of literacy-related strands. The literacy strands will support the Common Core State Standards for ELA and Literacy Across the Disciplines, and will include both content area focused strands (e.g. science, social studies, math, etc.)  and general literacy strands (e.g. text complexity, writing instruction, and word study) that meet the needs of K-12 educators. Network participants will be able to select 2-4 literacy strands on which to focus their study throughout the year (1-2 in the first half of the year and 1-2 in the second half of the year).  Face-to-face sessions will alternate with webinar sessions, and use of an online networking platform,, is also planned.  The tentative schedule for the literacy network during 2012-13 is:

  • Oct.—Face to face Session 1—Introduction, Setting the Stage, Getting Organized
  • Early Nov—introduction to technology online session (optional)
  • Nov/Dec-Webinars—Literacy Strands Round 1—Session 1
  • January-Webinars—Literacy Strands Round 1—Session 2
  • February Face to Face Session 2—Sharing applications of Webinar Strands from Round 1
  • March Webinars—Literacy Strands Round 2—Session 1
  • April Webinars—Literacy Strands Round 2—Session 2
  • May Face to Face Session 3—Sharing applications of Webinar Strands from Round 2 and Closure

The Maine Department of Education is currently seeking educators who would be interested in serving as local site facilitators and/or as webinar developers/facilitators.  Facilitator for local level sites and webinar developers/facilitators will be provided with stipends for their work and their travel will be reimbursed. The job descriptions for these roles are listed below:

Onsite Local Facilitators

Traits of Facilitators

  • Strong facilitation skills
  • Strong organization and management skills
  • Preference for strong literacy and/or content area knowledge


  • Attendance at MDOE training sessions for facilitators
  • Communication with site participants about meetings
  • Communication with site contacts about facility set up and AV needs
  • Preparation for 90 minute face-to-face networking sessions
  • Facilitation of 90 minute on-site face-to-face sessions
  • Record keeping for onsite contact hours

Webinar Content Developers and Webinar Facilitators

Traits of Developers/Facilitators

  • Strong knowledge of content area and/or literacy topics
  • Experience developing and delivering professional learning to educators
  • Strong facilitation skills
  • Strong organization and management skills
  • Leadership abilities
  • Preferred—experience using technology as a platform for delivering professional learning


  • Attendance at MDOE training sessions for webinar developers/facilitators
  • Development of content for 60 minute literacy strand webinars (2 per webinars per strand)
  • Facilitation of 60 minute strand webinars (2 per strand)

For additional information, please contact me at


Literacy for ME

May 18, 2012

Maine’s Comprehensive State Literacy Plan

Lisa Gilman teaches visual arts at the Winthrop Middle School. During the last year she has served as a content specialist on the State Literacy Committee. Recently she wrote this post for the meartsed blog to provide information to arts educators of the work the committee has done.

The committee was formed during the Fall of 2010. The MDOE applied for a Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) formula grant to be used to establish a Statewide Literacy Team charged with assisting the MDOE to develop a Statewide Literacy Plan. The Maine Department of Education was awarded the SRCL grant in November 2010. 

Along with many state literacy specialists and classroom specialists we began this journey by looking at other states that had completed their literacy plans. At the helm is Leeann Larsen, Literacy Specialist, MDOE, who has been a great leader for this daunting task of creating a plan for the state.   

“Literacy for ME outlines steps and identifies resources to help educators and others provide children with a strong early childhood foundation in literacy, provide students with effective literacy training throughout their years in school, and provide adults with low levels of literacy with the adult-level training they need.”

The literacy plan is organized around the following 6 components:

  • Strong leadership
  • System-wide commitment and partnerships
  • Standards and curriculum
  • Instruction and intervention
  • Assessment
  • Professional learning

These same components are familiar to Maine educators because they have the same components as other initiatives such as RTI and standards based education. This plan is not in addition to literacy efforts but a guide for ongoing work at the State and local level. Literacy for ME hopes to develop a cultural shift in how we think of literacy. Literacy for ME intends to broaden literacy for all residents of Maine. The plan is designed to initiate partnerships beyond the classroom walls.

The state of Maine defines literacy as: The ability to construct and convey meaning for a variety of purposes through an array of contextual forms and symbols, including reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing.  As an art educator who has taught reading along with my regular visual arts curriculum, literacy must not be designated to just Language Arts classes. Literacy is continually defined and expanded in our contemporary world.

Be looking for the formal plan to be launched in August 2012. 

Thank you Lisa for providing this information!

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