An exploration of the interplay of children’s literature and the Learning Cycle instructional model on students’ understanding in science, language abilities and reading comprehension.

Submitted by: Marianne Cormier
Abstract: In language minority schools, the mediating function of language for building identity and constructing knowledge seems to be a critical component of powerful pedagogical actions (Author). Carrejo and Reinhartz (2014) voice the need to integrate discipline-based instruction with language-based instruction as there is evidence that science serves as the instructional engine to promote language skills. According to Gee (2014), students must be engaged in learning to unpack both the content of science and its language, and by doing so, they are developing both literacies. Literature can create conditions for exploring human experience (Sumara, 2002), an important consideration for linguistic minority students who are negotiating their own identity. The Learning Cycle is a pedagogical model conceived for science teaching and seems effective for engaging students in learning and for fostering conceptual change (Marek, 2008). Our study explores the interplay of these different components. Thus, our three-year quasi-experimental study examines the impact of lesson plans using the 5E Learning Cycle embedded with children’s literature in middle school science. Our primary objective is to determine if this kind of juxtaposition helps linguistic minority students in a multilingual setting co-develop scientific and language literacies. Taking place in New Brunswick francophone minority schools, eight classes participated in a total of 12 science study units that interplayed the Learning Cycle with a children’s novel, set in the New Brunswick context, starting in grade six and continuing until the end of grade eight. Eight control classes were also followed and were taught science according to the provincial curriculum guide. In a mixed methods design, quantitative before and after measures were collected to measure understanding in science, language abilities and reading comprehension. At the end of the study, and for qualitative purposes, interviews were conducted with both teachers and students in the experimental group. Quantitative results suggest that the interplay between literature and science has promoted greater understanding. Qualitative results indicate the powerful nature of the novels to foster engagement and highlights the inclusive, identity building potential of this synergy that also nurtures language and science learning.