October 18, 2016

6 Ways to Support Beginning Researchers

Just in time for Halloween, my students researched bats last week. This is our first research project of the year - there are more to come - and the kids loved doing it! Overall I'm pleased with our first formal research efforts and I'd love to pass along ideas I incorporated making the process smooth with built in success for beginning researchers.

1. Model every aspect of what you expect students to do. Don't assume they know! For this bat research I declared vampire bats off limits because I used it for my research example. When our Scholastic News packet came in a few weeks ago I was so pleased. They had an entire edition on vampire bats! I pulled some book resources and two days before assigning research groups I demonstrated how to collect vampire bat facts. I showed the kids how to safely Google for additional information and how to record their resources. At each stage it is critical to explain what you are looking for, and how to be organized. After students collected their information I modeled how to thoughtfully create a vampire bat brochure so they could see the quality and elements I look for.

2. Have beginning researchers work in groups. I posted a list of different bats and asked each child to write their top three choices. Using their requests (gotta have buy in!), their reading level and what I know about their personalities I was able to make groups of 2 or 3 students. It was a thoughtful process and I was sure the group combinations supported my low readers and pushed my high achievers as well. I ensured my IEP students collaborated with the special ed team and my identified Talented and Gifted worked with the most advanced resources.

3. Collect resources prior to research. I wanted my students to use both print and online resources. This meant raiding our school and public library for bat books. I kept them all in one bin and did NOT allow students to put any of them in their Book Bins. It meant Googling different bats to see which ones had the most information at my students' reading levels. Based on the resources available and student needs I tailored the bat choice list.

4. Ask parents to come and help when kids are doing the research. I collaborate with my Technology Teacher when kids have done research before, however, I get as many adult helpers in the room as I can during the fact collection process. The adult helpers listen to my instructions then circulate, troubleshoot, assist and encourage all the groups. Whew! I would have a massive headache if it were just me in that room with all those hands up!

5. Expect kids create their own end product. Although students may be working from the same collection of facts as their research teammates, expect each kid to create their own end product. It was easy differentiate and see where some students need reteaching.

6. When finished, show kids the rubric. Discuss how the class, as a group, would score the vampire bat research model. After that allow kids to review and revise their own brochure to get the score desired. Allow kids to reflect on the process too. Beginning researchers may need a bit of coaching on this piece but it give you valuable insight.

Looking for other great research project for your class? Click on the links below. All are appropriate for both the seasoned and beginning researcher!

National Park Research Project
U.S. Landmark Research Project
Native American Tribe Research Project
Country Research Project
State Research Project
Explorer Research Project
Planet Research Project
Penguin Research Project
President Research Project

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