UCMP Lessons  


Authors: Jolene Routson and Al Janulaw

Overview: Students reconstruct sentences by reassembling the words that have been cut apart.

Lesson Concepts:

Grade Span: 3–5


Advance Preparation:

— Cut the sentences into separate words and make two sets of bags, the first set containing Goldilocks and the second set containing Dog and Rabbit (HTML or pdf).

Time: 50–60 minutes

Grouping: Small groups

Teacher Background:

Scientists work from new evidence as well as draw on recollections of past experiences. They then pose explanations of what they have observed and present their ideas to their peers.

Explore this link for additional information on the topics covered in this lesson:

Teaching Tips:

This activity gives students an opportunity to work the same way that scientists work.

The first sentence (Goldilocks) that students are asked to reconstruct has built-in clues, such as a capitalized first word and a period after the last word. In addition, most students should recognize the sentence as part of a familiar story. The second sentence (Dog and Rabbit) will be unfamiliar to them, but has similar internal clues. But, the second sentence might be interpreted in different ways by different students. Dogs chase rabbits, but they might also chase mice. In your discussions, allow students to present their ideas and tell how their reconstructions make sense to them. This provides an opportunity to point out that this is how scientists work; they assemble their explanations from new evidence and from their past experiences.

Vocabulary: reconstruction


  1. Begin by asking students how they think scientists figure things out.
  2. Hand out the first set of envelopes to groups.
  3. Tell students that each envelope contains words from of a well-known children’s story. Their job is to work with the other students in the group to put the pieces of story back together.
  4. Allow time to complete the sentence.
  5. Reconvene for discussion and ask the groups for their results.
  6. Repeat the procedure (2–5) with the second set of envelopes.
  7. Have groups share and justify their results and discuss why some results might be different. Point out that scientists have discussions just like this and their results might not always be the same. Discuss how this activity might be similar to scientists trying to put together broken fossils.


Use more complex stories for older students or as a further challenge.

Updated November 6, 2003

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