This week Ninfa Laurenzo Early Childhood Center opened its doors for a month of parent-school collaboration. Approximately 350 students and their families will be able to attend during February to explore and learn more about the Oral and Written Language Laboratory (OWL Lab).
“We are very fortunate to have the OWL Lab in our campus,” said ECC principal Carmen Rogina. “Today parents came into the Lab to see how teachers work with the students and also learn how to transition that learning into the home.”
During each session, family members see in action how certain strategies are being applied and, then, are encouraged to practice it with their children through everyday activities. “It is a very important piece of working with very early learners because oral language begins at home,” explained the principal.
Xochitl Maya-Lege Dual Language Manager believes that Ninfa Laurenzo, as the district’s Model Dual Language ECC, has “truly trailblazed and lead the work between School Literacy & Culture (SLC) Rice University and Dual Language in HISD”.
The OWL Lab utilizes storytelling and dramatic play to get students talking. Mrs. Ana Hernandez-Carter, Lab teacher at Ninfa Laurenzo, mentioned that one of the strategies they use is read aloud. “We implement it to develop the oral and written language of the dual language students. During the activity we use different voices, gestures, we create expectation and we invite the students to chime in. We also use repetitive stories that way they can participate.”
Different stations around the room allow children to talk about the story they just heard or even invent another ending. All with the purpose of developing oral and written language. Meanwhile, parents also encourage storytelling by sharing their cultural experiences in an exciting way with their children.
OWL Lab’s Rice Associate Director, Debbie Paz, says it is a time for parents to enjoy the school experience with the children. “The invitation is for them to see with their children model strategies they can use at home. They can be talking to their kids through everyday activities or doing read alouds in the way they see modeled. We want to celebrate their children’s learning and show them how proud we are of their progress.”
Carmen Martinez, a mother of a child at this ECC, said it was a great experience. “I came to the lab to observe how Mrs. Hernandez did her read aloud and to see how she used different strategies while reading a book and how to keep them engaged. Even myself I was trying to see what would happen in the book. It was very surprising to see all of the students engaged and participating, so I’m going to use those techniques at home!”
Last year when Laurenzo ECC was recognized as a Model Dual Language ECC, explained Maya-Lege, “much of their success was acknowledged to the well-implemented systems and best practices stemming from the Dual Language and the OWL Lab, as well as to the amazing leadership of Principal Rogina.”
Since then the partnership with SLC Rice University has strengthened. “We are now training and preparing more Dual Language teachers in grades PK-1st, as well as selecting a cohort from Elementary Dual Language Model campuses to go through the three-year preparation program to replicate more OWL Labs with Dual Language practices embedded an integrated,” said the Dual Language Manager.
For example, Mrs. Ana Hernandez-Carter, before becoming the OWL Lab teacher was a PK Dual Language teacher and at the same time, she went through the three-year preparation SCL Rice University to become an Early Literacy Teacher (ELA Teacher).
“We cannot deny that the more we develop and build the foundational background for our students, especially around oral language development, the more successful they will be during their Elementary years and beyond,” said Maya-Lege. “It is during those Early Childhood years that success or gaps are built for our students.”
Ninfa Laurenzo Early Childhood Center will be hosting this parent event every Thursday of February and on Wednesday 13th. Parents are invited to attend during their child’s schedule lab class.