You were OUTSTANDING! –Greg Fox, Principal, Langford School, E. Hartford, CT

I recommend Mary Jo Maichack as an artist in residence. (5-week residency, Morgan School, Holyoke, MA)…focusing on oral language development through storytelling, music and theatrical movement to act out stories…. All [her] activities were aligned with ELPBO/ELL Frameworks….I would not hesitate to have Mary Jo come back next year. What a wonderful experience it has been for all involved. — Amy Burke, Literacy Coordinator

Residencies are a special way to make a much closer connection and deeper impact in oral literacy by having regular in-class visits by Mary Jo.

Activities include model storytelling, and kids sing, tell stories, practice their oral presentation skills. They learn how to root for each other.

Here are sample activities from two weeks of a 7-week residency. Mary Jo meets with 3-4 classrooms per day, for 45 minutes to an hour each. You can have a kick-off and/or culminating concert, too, and include parent night and/or professional development piece for teachers who want to learn the importance and practice of storytelling in their classrooms:

“Tell It! Sing It! Move It!

An Integrated Arts Approach to Story Immersion & Oral Literacy”–because brain/learning research shows that students learn when the subject is meaningful and relevant, when their emotions are engaged, when they get to be physical, when it’s funny, and when they also get to relax and feel safe:

First visit–sample

MJ sang original song, “Come Explore at Your Library”

African folktale with song refrain, “Why Dog Chases Cat”

“The Alligator Stomp”/dance and song with rhyme and movement

“The Brothers Long & Short”–an origami story with surprise ending (paper box is the treasure box library)

“It Snowed Last Night”–poem with handplay (gestures gradually replace spoken word)–funny and beautiful

“Why Rooster Crows,” a story from Vietnam, with some children wearing feathers and costumes to speak dialogue (shared by audience kids)–drama

Teachers review: Who, What, Why, Where, When

Week 2


ABC song with kinders, guided imagery and relaxation–because we learn better when relaxed, and stimulate imagination

“The Fox and the Crow”–Aesop’s fable, with song, guitar, children singing and acting like the crow as she receives compliments

“I Am Strong, Stronger, the Strongest”–Using puppets of mice, cat, dog and owner, children speak lines in this never-ending circle story. We practiced the comparatives before, and as we went

“Down in the Valley”–a Gullah (derived from Angola) slave dance. All children partner up and dance, listening, singing, following the call-outs in the song

“Grab the Spot,” a storytelling, oral presentation skill-building exercise by Michael Parent. Mary Jo Maichack modeled poor self-introduction and children created a rubric of improvements. Ms. Maichack then repeated her presentation with their rules:

Stand up straight
Look at audience
Speak loudly
Go to the spot (center stage), THEN speak (not before)

Extended, regular visits to classrooms–You can combine with shows and ask for work to apply to any grade or grades, pre-k to grade 8, and can include professional development piece for teachers