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Building Knowledge to Bolster Reading Comprehension

Research suggests that the most powerful way to advance students’ reading comprehension skills is to ensure they have access to learning opportunities that build background knowledge in science, social studies, and the arts. 

After one year of UFLI Foundations implementation, faculty at St. Norbert School are collaborating to create experiential science and social studies modules for students in grades 1 and 2.  The goal is to provide a shared content-based experience for all students, while differentiating reading content at each child’s instructional level.  This model of teaching and learning ensures that all students have access to rich knowledge-building experiences and relevant reading material at his/her instructional level.

What does this look like in action?

In September and October, students investigated the life cycle of the pumpkin. Together, all students:

  • Learned how to use scientific tools (i.e. magnifying lens, measuring tape, balance scale)
  • Made observations about signs of summer and signs of autumn
  • Investigated the attributes of pumpkins and gourds
    • Measurement
    • Weight
    • Color
    • Shape
    • Texture
  • Estimated how many seeds were in a pumpkin
  • Opened the pumpkin, extracted the seeds, and counted to compare their estimate to the actual number of seeds
  • Learned how to create a bar graph to show the number of seeds in each pumpkin.

Separately, mixed-aged groups conducted reading research on:

  • The life cycle of a pumpkin
  • How seeds grow?
  • How seeds move
  • Life at a pumpkin patch
  • The difference between a pumpkin and a gourd.

In November, students began an engineering-based learning journey that investigated the attributes of strong structures and strong teams.  Challenges included:

  • The Tallest Standing Structure
  • Investigating Shapes
  • The Strongest Shape
  • A Chair for Bear
  • Building a House for the Gingerbread Boy & Girl

What students learned about building strong structures:

  • The engineering design process
  • Tall structures need a strong base
  • The strongest shape is a triangle
  • The history of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • How to create a blueprint
  • How to take a project through the engineering design cycle

What students learned about building strong teams:

  • A strong team listens to one another’s ideas.
  • A strong team learns from their mistakes.
  • A strong team cooperates.
  • A strong team uses teamwork.

The "Building Strong Structures and Building Strong Teams" learning journey concluded with a challenge from the gingerbread boy and gingerbread girl.  See below for the exciting outcomes.