Our superintendent shed some tears when he saw what we did.
Yes, indeed, he did! Here’s why:
70% high poverty school
120 struggling readers in grades 5 and 6
2 high school English teachers who became reading specialists because
their kids couldn’t read the textbooks
1 urban high school building converted to grades 5-6-7
1 dreary November day
Who came up with the idea? —I can’t remember. But I do remember the enjoyment of creating a holiday play in which all of our students could learn small parts and be successful participants.
I remember researching holiday traditions around the world and beginning to write parts of the play. Diane added other parts (Rudolph is a Wimp!) and the HUMOR, as she always did.
What a good friend to have—one who was witty, reliable, often hilarious. Oh, she knew how to make you howl with laughter! (She still does, to this day!) As the play writing developed, we chuckled together as we cleverly designed parts for some of our most difficult students.
Once the script was written, she took over the practices for the play, and I continued researching authentic holiday songs in many different languages. We enlisted the help of other teachers, and different groups phonetically learned holiday songs in other languages, which was somewhat arduous for many of our struggling readers. They did have better listening skills, so we often relied on that.
The Biggest Challenge
Finding costumes was really difficult. With little parental help, we scrounged around everywhere. Of course, teachers, as they always do, came through. Diane still remembers her own daughter constantly asking for the location of some of her clothes. Were they still in the hamper of dirty clothes? Were they lost in her brother’s closet? In the silverware drawer? 120 costumes was a larger number than we realized. Even on the last day, we were scrambling to find some shorts, suspenders, and a semblance of a proper hat for our little Swede. We ended up making the hat out of construction paper.
A Show Day Better Than A Snow Day!
When Show Day came, a few snow flurries began to swirl outside. We decided that this meant good luck. The kids were excited but nervous about performing before the seventh graders and their peers, with whom they often appeared less successful in their classrooms. We assigned one student to sit in the wings with a script, just in case lines were forgotten. This definitely relieved some stress in the most anxious students. Other kids relished the permission to act up.
The last scene of the play ended with a Rudolph twist, and then the auditorium reverberated with whoops and cheers.
Our principal stood in the back with our superintendent, who actually had tears in his eyes. Yes, we did make him shed a few tears—of joy, of course.
And now, these memories remain: the convivial and worthwhile collaboration with a colleague and the substantial enhancement of the self-esteem of struggling readers. All that work was truly worth it!
I wish I had a copy of the play to share with you, but it is long gone.
I did develop Grammar Stories: Holiday Traditions from my research for the play. If you are interested, you can find it in the
Here are some old photos of the play:
©Reading Spotlight 2019
Here are some other interesting posts about education from my friends at TBOTEMC: