Burton Elementary School SD#10 Arrow Lakes

I. General Information

School Name: Burton Elementary School

School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Michele Jackson, Jodi McLean

Inquiry Team Contact Name/Email: Michele Jackson/michele.jackson@sd10.bc.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Areas Addressed:

  • Language Arts – Reading

Focus Addressed:

  • Differentiated instruction
  • Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? To investigate the efficacy of using functional literacy (cookbooks) to improve reading fluency for struggling learners.

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: During our fall reading assessments we identified several students that were reading well below grade level. As our school is quite small, we created a reading intervention group for these students – ranging from grades 3 to 6. Our challenge was to find “just right” texts that would appeal to this diverse group of learners. I met individually with the students to discuss the four key questions and to ask about their interests. I discovered the majority enjoyed cooking/baking. Although many were not interested/able to read novels, students enthusiastically read through several cookbooks that I brought from home and requested to try some of the recipes.

Focus: This area was selected in an effort to increase engagement in reading for our struggling students. As the majority of the students where of Indigenous heritage, it also provided a way to include cultural learning. Students love to cook, and it provided an opportunity for them to choose recipes of interest and – after reading and completing comprehension activities – to be able to make something they could share with others. Through functional literacy, we hoped our students would be able to connect their learning to life and recognize the importance of learning to read.

Hunch: When readers struggle with reading (especially in the upper grades) they lose the self-confidence to persevere with their learning – it impacts all areas of the curriculum. Choosing guided reading books that are at their skill level AND interest them is a challenge. Often the “just right” books chosen contain subject matter and and are written with younger students in mind.

New Professional Learning: I registered for the Traditional Foods and Indigenous Recipes Webinar and was provided with additional resources. I also connected with an Indigenous Elder and invited her to make a traditional recipe with our students and share her stories.

Taking Action: I would give cookbooks to the students and invite them to share what was of interest to them. When the recipe was chosen I would create comprehension activities that included reading strategies such as questioning, inferring and word work related to what they had read. I would ask what would happen if they added more milk to the recipe or less milk. We would encourage practical problem solving that extended beyond what they were reading.

Checking: I experienced the confidence of our students grow; they were willing readers and embraced all learning and enjoyed the comprehension activities. As they were also participating in other guided reading groups, it was difficult to identify the impact of functional literacy alone in increasing their reading levels. This program, however, was extremely effective in building relationships and showing the interest of adults in their success. When a program is specifically selected with the interests of the students in mind, they feel valued. In turn, as they were able to share what they made with their peers, they were regarded with dignity and respect. This is not often the case with students that are struggling with reading in the intermediate grades.

Reflections/Advice: Using functional literacy to engage struggling readers was an effective way to increase motivation and build self-confidence. I purchased multiple copies of various cookbooks, so students would have a variety to choose from. Although I was able to purchase some Indigenous Cuisine cookbooks, we didn’t use them as much as I would have hoped. Including cooking with the guided reading was extremely effective, but involved a lot of preparation. Inviting an Indigenous Elder to cook with the students was extremely successful, and moving forward I would do this more often. Following our Indigenous Education Equity Scan this year, it was mentioned by parents that we should include a Cultural Food Fair in our planning. This would also be a great way to extend our functional literacy learning. Finally, moving forward I would include functional literacy in some form in all guided reading or literacy circles as all students would benefit from and enjoy reading cookbooks.

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