Using literature to help 4th and 5th grade students with disabilities living In poverty develop the problem-solving skills they need to be successful in their world
The critical-thinking skill of problem solving needs to be part of the curriculum for all students, including those with learning disabilities living in poverty; yet, too often this is not the case. Too often students in poverty and students with learning disabilities are provided a curriculum that is watered down, focused on the basics, and aimed at managing their behaviors instead of helping them learn to think critically about their world. Despite their challenges, these students can learn to problem solve. Educators need to help students make connections between the critical-thinking skills learned in school and the problem-solving skills needed for life. One solution might be to use literature with characters facing similar problems, hold grand conversations, and teach them a problem solving method. Together, these three parts have the potential to motivate and lead students to better thinking. This action research study explored whether literature with characters facing similar problems to the study's participants, grand conversations, and the I SOLVE problem solving method would help students with disabilities living in poverty in the Southwestern United States develop the problem-solving skills they need to understand and successfully navigate their world. Data were collected using a mixed methods approach. The Motivation to Read Profile, I SOLVE problem-solving survey, thought bubbles, student journals, transcripts from grand conversations, and researcher's journal were tools used. To understand fully how and to what extent literature and grand conversations helped students gain the critical thinking skill of problem solving, data were mixed in a convergence model. Results show the I SOLVE problem-solving method was an effective way to teach problem-solving steps. Scores on the problem-solving survey rose pre- to post-test. Grand conversations focused on literature with character's facing problems led to an increase in students' motivation to read, and this population of students were able to make aesthetic connections and interpretations to the texts read. From these findings implications for teachers are provided.