"SaY" it with Education: Spin A Yarn India & The Literacy Curriculum in Schools
One of the most common questions, I receive in regard to the Spin A Yarn program is how, and whether, it integrates into a pre-existing literacy curriculum. Is this project merely a fun add-on or is there actual academic value in it that can be defended in case it needs to be?
While there would be little wrong with the program if it was “just” a fun add-on, the answer is that; yes, the Spin A Yarn program has academic value, and not just for the students, but for the teachers themselves as well. So let’s break it down a bit.
Because the program centers around a "read aloud", that means you have a mentor text. Many participants use the text as their central text while they work through lessons on story development and analysis. However, that is not all it is. The driving idea behind the project is to connect with others and the way that is accomplished is often through writing or speaking. This then adds another layer of meaning to the project because it allows us to center our teaching on not just text exploration and discussion, but idea creation and sharing with others.
1. “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.” Because the text is not only read aloud but also discussed with a worldwide audience, students are not only expected to understand the text but also be able to infer and formulate their opinions about the text in a way to effectively communicate with others.
2. “Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.” The whole notion of the read aloud is to understand the story, to predict what will happen, to discuss and share with others, and be able to hold the whole text in your mind while you continue to listen to the read aloud.
3. “Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.” Tracking the characters along with the story allows us to work on stamina, to work on long-term predictions, and to get to know the characters and story on a deeper level.
4. “Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.” In order to convey nuance, the read aloud often lends itself well to studying the craft of writing as seen through word choice and figurative meaning.
5. “Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.” One of the main points of the SaY is to dive into perspective, this does not only include the perspective of the narrators but also how our own perspective and lens impacts our understanding and experience with the text.
6. “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.” Because there are additional tools layered in with the Spin A Yarn program, such as author videos, student presentations, and other content created by students around the world, this is a natural extension of the learning.
7. “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.” I love having my students discuss with others what they believe will happen in the story, as well as what the characters should do in order to stay within character. Diving deep into a character and then being able to articulate and argue one’s opinion is a vital skill.
8. “Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.” I always add in other sources and use the Spin A Yarn program as a springboard into inquiry. Because the books chosen are often set in unfamiliar places or center around unfamiliar events, students naturally have a lot of questions. This is why the resource sharing is an incredibly powerful tool of the SaY.
This is just discussing the reading component, but the beauty of the SaY is that it is so much more than “just” reading. Coupling it with the collaborative global aspect offers us the opportunity for students to work on writing, on speaking and listening, on the act of collaboration itself, as well as meaningful technology integration. It allows us to focus on building an understanding of others, of developing empathy and activism. This is at the center of what great 21st century learning looks like; providing authentic and meaningful ways to engage in a world wide dialogue around relevant topics.
And for the teachers involved, it allows for new tools to be introduced, new connections to be forged that will bolster their teaching, as well as a meaningful way to dive into literacy that will model what literacy experiences should look like.
And so, much like I have said before; why take the time to do the SaY? Global collaboration is necessary to show students that they are part of something bigger than them. That the world needs to be protected and that we need to care for all people. You can show them pictures of kids in other countries but why not have them speak to each other? Then the caring can begin.
Who We Are:
At Spin A Yarn India: our mission is to become the primary outlet of children focused content by encouraging the participation of India’s latent indigenous story telling creativity, knowledge, and culture.
It is through stories that we define our identity, express our history and culture, learn and engage in all aspects of society. Stories are not only the first medium for communication, education and social integration, but are also at the heart of each person’s unique identity, cultural history and memory.
Spin A Yarn India has created a platform to enable “Storytellers” to come together to discover and share their passion for stories. A community of creators, dreamers and explorers united by their love for great stories.
Spin A Yarn India is a partner of the United Nations Indigenous Language and the Bhasha Sangam programs. Spin A Yarn India runs as a social enterprise. Profit is reinvested to support children from underprivileged backgrounds to gain access to books, education and in general to improve the literacy of families across India.