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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — One recent day Camp Humphreys elementary school students were reading a story about a little girl whose family wanted to take a vacation but couldn’t decide where to go.

The girl puts her mind to solving the problem, and even draws charts that’ll help point the way to the best vacation plan in the circumstances.

As the pupils and their teacher read the story, they also undertook some problem solving. That skill, along with reading comprehension, are two key goals Humphreys American Elementary School is pursuing in a performance improvement program.

The school will hold to those two goals until 2009, information specialist Nancy L. Turner said. They’re part of the school’s Scholastic Improvement Program on which the National Certification Organization will grade the school in 2007, she added.

To help students along in the classroom, a color poster is displayed that bears the letters UPSL, representing a formula designed to help them develop problem-solving habits: Understand, Plan, Solve, Look back.

It teaches them to first secure an understanding of the problem, then plan how they aim to solve it, carry out steps necessary to bring about that solution, then review what they’ve done to see whether it was correct.

Teacher Kelli Gerlach, whose first- and second-graders used the poster when reading the story about the family vacation plan, said it is “something that they can always have on hand in order to help them with their math or their reading or their science.”

It was one of two posters the school created, with the other called “High 5” and focused on reading comprehension skills. It shows an open hand on which are written several key things students should consider when reading fiction: characters, setting, events, problem, solution. Coupled with “theme or main idea,” said Humphreys American Elementary School third-grade teacher Kelsey Gerber, “Those all help with reading comprehension.

“I can say from personal experience with my children we use it on almost a daily basis, with short stories that we read, chapter books, after every book they read,” Gerber said. “I require them to complete a ‘high five,’ taking the literary elements out of their book and putting them into their High 5 graphic organizer.”

The school had settled on problem solving and reading comprehension as skills its students most needed based on test scores and other indicators, second-grade teacher Sherri Longoria said.

“We come up with … goals and then we implement new strategies each year to increase student performance across the curriculum in those two areas,” she said.

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