Pre-Texts in Harvard Ed Portal Summer School
July 6, 2016  Harvard | Allston, MA


Harvard Ed Portal in Allston, MA


The Boy Who Loved Words, Roni Schotter and Giselle Potter.


Trecia Reavis, with assistance from Joan Matsalia, Renelle Lawrence, and Karen Massey


Allston elementary children ages 5-8.


A week long summer camp using Pre-Texts and the text, The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter and Giselle Potter.  Program goals: to increase students comprehension of literary elements such as theme, relationships between central and non-central characteristics through the use of art. Students will increase their vocabulary and interpretation of a text through different art based activities.

There was an overall Pre-Texts training with all of the summer facilitators.  During this workshop facilitators were very open to using Pre-Texts as a base to manage and facilitate their programs, from bicycle riding, science technology programs and this program aimed at Pre-K range learners.

Teachers (especially in early childhood learning) often, in my experience express concern even through they are initially excited about what Pre-Texts can do.  There have been questions about the effectiveness of Pre-Texts to learn language vs needing a foundation of language to grow from.

I experienced this with teachers in Shenzhen China who teach English to year 1 learners.  Concerns were so great that we decided to do an entire workshop activity in Spanish, a language none of the workshop participants new so they could experience first hand how easily Pre-Texts could be applied.  It’s effectiveness was demonstrated when teachers actually enjoyed the workshop, was able to navigate comprehension quickly resulting in surpassing the targeted Spanish words initially selected.

One art method is effective in applying Pre-Texts but within this workshop multiple aesthetic approaches were used.  This was particular exciting considering the diversity of learning challenges (some children could read very well, others couldn’t read at all.)

The week followed similar Pre-Texts strategies, beginning with creating a book cover, while the book was read aloud, then following up with a number of creative activities aimed at comprehension, learning vocabulary.  Learners were placed in groups of 4 or 5.  Warm ups and presentations of the aesthetic offerings helped to create admiration and confidence within the peer groups.   Individuals who were initial shy and didn’t want to share the first day had completely opened up by the end of the week, to the astonishment of all of the facilitators.


Facilitator Observations

I have facilitated the training of teachers in Pre-Texts and have experienced Pre-Texts as a participant, but never have I co-facilitated a weeklong Pre-Texts summer camp for students grades 1 – 3! What a whirlwind of an experience it was. There were days where as a group, the students worked really well together, and then there were days were the students needed a lot more hand holding. This was not the fault of the students. After the initial 2-3 days, we facilitators were able to peer students up better and we were better able to give certain students more support and other students more challenging work. There were activities where the students were so engaged that there was not a peep in the room. Other activities, where the students weren’t as engaged, possibly because the activities were too simple or we didn’t provide enough instruction, we saw behavioral problems and students acting out.

Overall, as a team of co-facilitators, we worked to improve our skills and the experience of the students by debriefing every day. These debriefing sessions helped immensely and gave us the opportunity to voice our concerns and to applaud our successes. Trecia provided great structure to the program and made sure we always stayed true to Pre-Texts. Although, we made a lot of changes, having an outline and agenda for each day also helped us co-facilitate better. 

 All-in-all it was a fun experience and I dare say, I would do it again – except with less students and a narrower age range. 

-  Renelle Dayna Lawrence, Facilitator assistant


I had the privilege of working with Trecia Reavis and others at the Harvard Ed Portal five mornings in July 2016.  We used the book “The Boy Who Loved Words” as inspiration for a wide variety of activities to help the learners unravel the meaning of the story.  In the end, the students had created their own works of visual, performance, and three-dimensional art and literature inspired by the story.

The kids were K-2nd grade so there was a range of learning from pre-readers through youngsters who were easily able to read and even read out loud to others.  It was a challenge to provide the right amount of attention to and boundaries for each of the kids. 

It was very satisfying to see kids who at first weren’t interested in a project make it their own.  Some had a hard time getting started and needed to be told they didn’t have to be perfect, that anything they did would be great because they, the learner, did it.  Also, some of the learners were just beginning to recognize letters or make sentences and needed someone to help them get started and/or write a sentence down that they made up.  Once they created a sentence and were helped by the facilitator and/or a more advanced reader, they started creating more and more sentences and really got interested in writing!

                                    -  Karen Woodward-Massey, Facilitator Assistant

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Thanks for sharing !

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