Bridge 1 Research Findings

Multi-Sensory Immersion in Story Concepts and Skills, Multi-Sensory Literate Expression


Bridges emphasized authentic discussion of character, setting, and narrative of stories – with embodied classroom practice – as opposed to a more formulaic presentation and recall of classroom texts. Young children benefited from experiencing language in an authentic manner, and physically embodying language through the artistic process.

Bridges students made significantly better progress on literacy development than a comparison group.


Students …

  • demonstrated growth in artistic, academic, and social emotional areas, it was reflected in the research as students;
  • Developed self-confidence in expressing themselves, with some students opening up to their classmates for the first time. Students worked collaboratively on creating and enacting stories.
  • Demonstrated achievement in visual arts, in areas such as exploration of materials, creating artwork, art vocabulary, and collaboration on arts projects. The Bridges residencies incorporated a Five Senses Journey activity where students imagined the sensory experience of different settings in a story. The Five Senses Journey helped students learn to physically and verbally express their ideas. Students created puppets and collages, making artistic choices with materials and representation.
  • Demonstrated achievement in theater and puppetry, in areas such as physical awareness, physical expression, vocal expression, collaboration, and problem-solving. Students were able to physically enact emotions and ideas, reflecting character, settings and narrative sequence. Students created stories based upon fictional characters and presented to their class, projecting emotions and ideas through movement.
  • Developed comprehension of complex concepts and stories through multi-sensory immersion in location, character and narrative. Multi-sensory immersion helped students envision physical locations of a story. The resulting “mental picture” supported students understanding of the setting and sequence of a story, which in turn supported their reading and writing skills.
  • Developed new expressive skills, using their bodies and art materials in addition to verbal communication.


Teachers …

Accquired and implemented puppet-literacy teaching strategies that supported student development in literacy outcomes in story narrative, sequence, character development, setting and emotional and descriptive expression.


The program developed a culture of professional inquiry among teachers and schools.

Teacher observations were facilitated by group discussions and reflection on teacher-generated videos of classroom behavior. Teachers discussed how these observations of students improved their classroom instruction, while also facilitating coordination among teachers within schools. Teachers also shared their analysis with other schools, building a project-wide culture of inquiry. Teachers developed their skills at digital documentation and embedded digital and written documentation into their assessment process.

Bridges teachers followed a process of observation, documentation and reflection. They then shared their observations within and across schools, building a project-wide culture of inquiry.

Through professional development, teachers developed their capacity to document and share behavioral indicators of student learning in puppetry/theater and connections to literacy, as well as other behaviors reflecting development in social-emotional learning. Teachers learned methods for collecting video samples of student behaviors, collected video samples, and shared them at professional development sessions.

According to teachers…

  • We learned how art can be crucial in literacy development, whether it is making puppets or acting out scenes prior to reading them in order for students to gain a better understanding.
  • We are more aware of the importance movement brings to enrich literacy and help students grasp concepts we are trying to teach.
  • It brought to my attention different ways to get students excited about literacy.
  • This helped me step out of my comfort zone and bring literacy to life.
  • It helped me to see how I can use puppet play and strategies to help build literacy skills.
  • It helped me to visualize, articulate and deepen my understanding of how and why children make their artistic choices, reflect upon their process and share it with others.
  • It brought my creative side back into teaching.
  • It made me aware of the power of the multidisciplinary approach including the arts. The students really enjoyed the use of the puppets this year. We found ways to use the vocabulary they learned to carry over into literacy lessons. The use of the puppets brought out their imagination and creativity in ways we don’t normally see in our daily teaching. They were excited every time the artists worked with us!
  • The children broke out of their little boxes that they are usually put in. Watching them all stand up and pretend to be in the rainforest was a great sight to see. The kids were genuinely happy.
  • My students loved the day when the artist came into our classroom. It allowed them to be creative and use art as a way to express what they were thinking and feeling. Children who usually would not participate became more engaged. Bridges is such a wonderful experience for my students.
  • Overall, using puppets to create a story or describe emotions has been a great scaffold to writing. The ability to use their bodies and words first is important to develop ideas and thoughts, rather than expecting children to sit in front of a bland piece of paper to begin writing. Furthermore, working with puppets brought students the freedom to be in character, with the puppet as the focus, which for many was very liberating.
  • Students worked together after making their 2-faced puppets to create their own stories to act out. Their ideas were incredible! Bridges helped with students who might not feel confident to share out feel like they were able to contribute to the plays/skits they and their classmates were creating. It also gave students more opportunities to work collaboratively with different students in the class.
  • My kindergarten students loved this class. They loved [the teaching artist]. They listened and participated and created and performed, showing off their creations. They worked independently and as a group. One of my ICT students, who usually needed much support and encouragement to complete his work, worked on his puppet with joy and purpose. He happily shared his reasons behind his choices of materials and playfully showed off his finished work. He was so proud to take it home.

Student Assessment

The students were assessed using the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project (TCRWP) “running records,” an accepted Measure of Student Learning (MoSL) in New York City schools, assessing reading ability, fluency and comprehension.

The significant difference in Bridges TCRWP progress may be due to the instructional content of Bridges, which emphasizes authentic discussion of character, setting, and narrative of stories – with embodied classroom practice – as opposed to a more formulaic presentation and recall of classroom texts. Young children benefit from experiencing language in an authentic manner, and physically embodying language through the artistic process.

The following table compares the average score increase for the Bridges students and the comparison group. Both groups increased about 4 levels, with the Bridges group significantly outperforming the comparison group (t-test, p < .05)