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Second-Grade Play Promotes ESL Learning, Speaking

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Highview Elementary School Principal Gary Mastrangelo heard someone humming as he walked around the outskirts of the packed gymnasium during teacher Valerie Galdau's second grade play. It was school board member Claudia Glaser, who remembered the "Winnie the Pooh" song from when she was in second grade.

On Tuesday morning, Galdau's class presented fellow students and parents with a play called "The Enchanted Place," a take on Winnie the Pooh and friendship. Every year, Galdau, a 28-year teacher in the district, takes a story from literature that the students read during the year and turns it into a play. The play is designed to help the students, commonly children in the English as a second language (ESL) program, learn to read and gain confidence.

"It's really a fun day," said Mastrangelo. "The kids enjoy it. For many of them, it could be their first time on stage. And what Mrs. Galdau hopes is that it's not their last. The ESL students learn their lines. Research shows that if they learn through a different modality, then maybe they are more able to learn to read and write faster. There's a meaning and a method behind the madness."

Galdau's play emphasized the magnitude of public speaking and performance. In addition to being able to read and write, she said, the children have to be able to speak and listen.

"Children must learn to speak and open their mouths," said Galdau, highlighting the importance of confidence.

"They are learning about literature," said art teacher Miriam Burnabei. "They are collaborating and incorporating 21st century skills. They are learning memorizing and the importance of presentation. Of course, they learned music and dance, which we all know is what makes life joyful and wonderful. The children in the audience got to practice audience skills. That's a very important thing. But most importantly, these children will have a memory that they will never, ever forget."

The play was followed by a cast party with the students' parents, complete with drinks and muffins baked by Galdau.

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