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Students bring classic Christmas poem to life

Project is about illustrations and recitations
By: Martha Garcia, Colfax Record Editor
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It takes a teacher to know how to turn a favorite holiday poem into a learning tool, and that’s exactly what Colfax Elementary School teacher Craig McAtee has been doing for years in what he calls a “reader’s theater.”

Before school closed for winter break last week, McAtee’s third-grade students presented “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” in classrooms throughout the school.

Each student learned how to be an illustrator of a poem by drawing or painting a part of the Christmas classic and learned how to deliver it in presentation format.

“We really focused on pacing, proper breathing and enunciation. It’s great for presentation skills,” McAtee said. About half of the students also memorized their part of the poem so they could focus on the delivery. “We worked on reading fluency and how to express what they’re reading in a way the audience can understand it and they can understand it,” he said.

Students recited one at a time, he said, so they had to learn to be patient and wait for their turn, all the while learning how a poem works in sequence. “It’s literally a reader’s theater,” he said.

McAtee said the project is part of the California state curriculum, covering listening and speaking standards. He’s hoping to do other poems in the future, perhaps “Cat in the Hat.”

Because McAtee has taught at the school for 16 years – the last 10 years in the third grade and previously in the fourth and sixth grade – he’s often told by older students that they remember when they, too, were part of the presentation.colfax