San Antonio Symphony Partners With Innovative QWILL Literacy Application to Provide Second Year of Multi-Faceted, Cross-Curricular Education Program

January 2, 2019



Jeremy Brimhall, Director of Education, 210-554-1006 |


SAN ANTONIO – This January, the San Antonio Symphony will present a second-year installment of its educator-acclaimed A Midsummer Night’s Dream Young People’s Concert program in a renewed collaboration with QWILL Media and Education, Inc., Children’s Ballet of San Antonio and the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.  The first-of-its-kind, cross-curricular program brings together an innovative semester-long literacy application scaffolded around the children’s book A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Kids by Lois Burdett and a directly-related set of culminating concerts, which borrow narration from the same text.  Known as QWILL (Quality Writing Inspires Lifelong Learning), the literacy application is an online learning tool for educators and students that includes engaging activities and innovative writing and collaborative projects relating directly to the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream while covering a wide range of writing forms and functions. The scope and sequence of the QWILL program aligns closely to state teaching objectives while covering a broad range of communication skills, life lessons and cross-curricular extensions.

The recent experience of one local classroom is documented in the short video linked below:

Currently, students from nine local schools are participating in the second-year, semester-long pilot program. At the conclusion of the literacy curriculum, and as a culminating enrichment activity, students will attend the corresponding San Antonio Symphony Young People’s Concert at the Tobin Center.  Young People’s Concerts are free admission and open to all schools and homeschool families with prior reservation.  Performances conducted by Symphony Associate Conductor Noam Aviel take place Jan. 16 & 17, 2019, for a total sold-out audience of over 6,000 children.  Narrators include storyteller Miss Anastasia of The Twig Book Shop and Dr. Carmen Tafolla, world-renowned writer and poet.

New this season, the Symphony has commissioned a professional Spanish‐language, rhymed translation of the concert script and will present a single Spanish-English bilingual performance for the first time on Jan. 17 at 11:10 am, narrated by Dr. Carmen Tafolla.  This innovative performance will maintain the literary quality of the original while incorporating a bilingual and code-switched playfulness most suited to our San Antonio heritage and setting, and most appropriate to Shakespeare’s tone and intention for this play.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream For Kids Literacy Program

Description: The QWILL language arts application helps children become master communicators. The cloud-based resource – primarily geared to students in grades 3 to 7 – is steeped in the humanities with an emphasis on creativity, the Arts, critical thinking skills and social-emotional awareness.

The teaching guide is designed around Shakespeare’s play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream and best selling author Lois Burdett’s children’s book – A Midsummer Night’s Dream For Kids – – The material engenders self-confidence and self-esteem in young students and produces significant improvement in their listening, speaking, reading and, in particular, writing skills.

Research: The curriculum has attracted the attention of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Faculty of Education at Western University in London, Canada and other international universities – 

Results: Results from the program are highlighted at – – and include two parts. Part one shows “before and after” writing samples typical of the work produced by students using the resource. Most samples have an audio button so you can listen to the children reading their assignments. Part two includes excerpts from the documentary The Secret of Will. The film features Lois and her grade 2/3 class engaging with Shakespeare and his world. The clips showcase footage of students at age seven and again as teenagers reflecting on their experiences in her class.

Access: In order to access the app, please go to – – Click “Request an Invitation” and fill out the simple form. Shortly thereafter, you will receive a password to the Guest Log In section of the site. This area introduces the material in advance of looking at the program as a whole.

Lois Burdett

For over 20 years, elementary teacher and award-winning author Lois Burdett has led her students to develop an appreciation of Shakespeare’s works not usually seen until most students are well into high school. The Shakespeare Can Be Fun! series includes eight books. A Child’s Portrait of Shakespeare introduces students to Shakespeare’s life and times. The other seven books in the series A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Kids, Twelfth Night for Kids, Macbeth for Kids, Romeo and Juliet for Kids, The Tempest for Kids, Hamlet for Kids, Much Ado about Nothing for Kids transform Shakespeare’s complex plays into a format that students can readily understand and enjoy. Composed of rhyming couplets that emphasize action and character dialogue, these quick-moving narratives incorporate colloquial language but retain the poetic beauty of Shakespearean phrase.

San Antonio Symphony Young People’s Concerts

The San Antonio Symphony’s school-day Young People’s Concerts (YPCs) have introduced over 1,000,000 area youth to live symphonic music since 1943.  Thanks to generous funding, this flagship of the Symphony’s education programs has grown to more fully support the efforts of educators in our community’s schools, with over 40,000 students attending annually.  Programs are designed to align with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) teaching objectives for Fine Arts and a rotating core subject area.  Geared towards third, fourth, and fifth grade students, YPCs engage students with interactive components as well as carefully planned and highly-educational programs of music and lectures. Free educational materials provided to teachers in advance of each program include a comprehensive Teacher’s Guide with built-in classroom activities and access to an online playlist of the concert music selections.

Children’s Ballet of San Antonio

The Children’s Ballet of San Antonio (CBSA), directed by Vanessa Bessler, seeks to inspire the pursuit of excellence and prepare children for productive and creative lives through dance by offering extensive training and performance opportunities for talented children from all backgrounds.

Miss Anastasia of The Twig Book Shop

Anastasia McKenna, a.k.a. Miss Anastasia, is a former elementary school teacher who has spent the last 20+ years doing weekly and traveling story times for independent bookstores, Austin’s Toad Hall and San Antonio’s The Twig Book Shop. In addition to speaking at TEDxSA 2013, PechaKucha Volume 10 in San Antonio, she also had the opportunity to present at the 2014 American Bookseller’s Association’s Children’s Institute.

Dr. Carmen Tafolla

Dr. Carmen Tafolla is a world-renowned writer and poet. Her literary works are in the form of prose and poetry, and children’s books. She has received various literary awards and won first prize in the National Chicano Literary Contest.  She was also Poet Laureate of San Antonio and the State of Texas.

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

The mission of The Tobin Center is to provide a world-class venue that promotes a diverse range of cultural, educational, and artistic experiences that improve the quality of life in San Antonio.

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