Building Background Knowledge and Vocabulary Through Family Field Trips - Horizon Academy

Building Background Knowledge and Vocabulary Through Family Field Trips

Jun 25, 2024

Building Background Knowledge and Vocabulary Through Family Field Trips

The mission of Horizon Academy is to empower students diagnosed with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities to become effective learners and confident self-advocates. One of the ways in which we empower our students is through effective literacy instruction using Orton-Gillingham principles. In our daily Therapeutic Language and Literacy Classes (TLC), students learn skills including phonological awareness (recognition of sounds), phonics (mapping sounds to letters), decoding (reading phonics-based words), and encoding (spelling phonics-based words) to support progress with reading fluency. 

However, skilled reading does not result solely from accurate decoding of words; comprehension of what is being read is also necessary! Increasing vocabulary and background knowledge supports language comprehension. Check out this video ( and article ( for additional information on the importance of background knowledge for reading comprehension. 

At Horizon Academy, students participate in Science and Social Studies classes to increase their background knowledge and vocabulary on a wide variety of interesting topics.  These classes regularly include vocabulary exploration and hands-on activities to support knowledge-building in tangible ways. Our students often express how much they enjoy Science and Social Studies - a win for everyone!

Students’ caregivers also play an important role in promoting language comprehension. They can help students increase their background knowledge and vocabulary by reading books together, discussing movies, and simply chatting about daily activities at home and in the community. In addition, “family field trips” can be exciting ways to support knowledge-building while also creating fun memories. Below are some places in the Kansas City Metro to check out with the kids, along with some suggestions on ways to add language enrichment to your “family field trips.”

Background Knowledge in Social Studies

Background Knowledge in Science & Nature

Language Enrichment Suggestions

  • Pre-Reading: Before your adventure, read fiction and non-fiction picture books, novels, articles, etc. related to the topic of the field trip. Discuss new vocabulary words and concepts. Reading books may prompt questions that your children could ask staff members during the outing.
  • Retell: After the trip, guide your child in sharing their experiences with someone who was not with them. Retelling experiences is a wonderful way to support narrative language development. Feel free to use photos for support during the retelling! Consider prompting your child to share the following information:
    • Chronological Account: What did you do first, second… last?
    • Seven Narrative Elements: If this trip was a storybook, who were the characters? When and where did the story take place (setting)? What problem did the characters encounter? What were the characters’ feelings in response to the problem? What action did the characters take to fix the problem? How did the story end? How did the characters feel at the end?
    • Sensory Details: What sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and smells did you experience?
    • Summary/Conclusion: What are the main “takeaways” from your adventure?
    • Compare & Contrast: How was this field trip similar or different from other places you have visited? 
  • Journal: Encourage your child to journal about the outing. Include drawings if desired!
  • Advertisement: Ask your child to create a pretend advertisement highlighting the best parts of the experience. You could draw, write, or even film the ad!
  • Act It Out: It’s Showtime! Recall the field trip’s seven narrative elements and prompt your child to reenact the story. Use props, call in family members and friends to be supporting actors, and have fun with this creative expression! 

Your Horizon Academy staff is grateful for all of our students and their families! Keep joyfully learning and exploring together!

Warm Regards,

Emily Hathhorn, M.A., CCC-SLP

Jo Myers, M.A., CF-SLP