Sunday, January 13, 2013

Research revelations

Hi friends!

I'm starting to feel like a grape, being crushed into wine. Or maybe I'm just whining. What a busy few weeks we're having, with research, and author visits, and budget deadlines for ordering books. Oh, my!

We are in the midst of our third grade research project about rapid changes to the earth's surface. As I said, I use a LibGuide to put all of our project resources in one place, accessible from any computer, but you could also make a Symbaloo or a Live Binder or use your teacher web page. It reassures the teachers that you do, in fact, have a plan.

Last week, I found that some teachers had already used the LibGuide to introduce their classes to the concept of Trash and Treasure note-taking and citing sources. Woohoo! I reviewed, and then we got down to business.

I have 8 working computers in the library, so students took turns researching either in the books I had gathered (from my library and the public library) or on the computers.

I had lots of positive feedback from students and teachers. The students were saying things like, "I thought this was gonna be boring, but it's really fun!" And "Wow! You've got a lot of information in here!" I am NOT kidding!  And here's what made the difference:


Instead of doing the project in bits and pieces of time carved out of the day, each class came to the library for 2 hours. Solid. The students LOVED being able to really dig into the subject and LEARN! They had fun thinking about what would melt in hot lava, or what came down the slope in a landslide.

(Yes, I know that this student has his feet on the chair, and no, I do not care. He is so involved in what he's reading that he couldn't even tell you what shoes he's wearing, much less where they are. To me, this is a good thing.)

Here are the details. Last week, I talked to each class for a few minutes about taking notes and citing sources, then they worked for 2 hours. Every 40 minutes, a different group rotated to the computers, and everybody stood and stretched. The classroom teacher and I walked around giving one-on-one help, as needed. Students helped each other. The students were assigned to write treasure words answering 3 questions about their rapid change, and cite their sources, within those 2 hours.

Next week (starting tomorrow), we will work for another 2 hours, with students pairing up now to create a table comparing their rapid changes. At the end of next week's session, their table should be complete, and they will only have the self-evaluation to finish.

I'm delighted with the enthusiasm these students are showing for the research process. I'm definitely going to try to implement this type of schedule for future projects.

How about you? What makes your research projects successful? Let us know, so we can ALL inspire our students!


  1. Thank you for this post, Cari! Time is definitely crucial when engaging in the research process. I typically see a class for 30 to 40 minutes once a week. Since we are using laptop and iPad carts to move our equipment between classrooms and the library, I usually have to allow at least 5 minutes for getting the laptops from another classroom, effectively cutting down my allotted time with the students Beginning later this month, I am going to work with our 2nd grade teacher on a biography research project and will try to get a 90-minute block of time carved into her classroom schedule :)

    1. Karin,
      Let me know how it goes with the longer block of time. I'm interested to see if you have the same results.

  2. Thank you for any and all research help. We are about to start third, fourth and fifth grade research projects for the month of February. I am on a fixed schedule so it will be about 30 minutes a week per class and then they check out books for the last 15 minutes. Right now, I need to make notetaking sheets for them- so they know exactly what info to look for, read and record.The finished product will be done by the classroom teachers. Another big thing/concern for me is readability of the sources. If it's way over their heads, it is not much help for research. Have a great day!

    1. Oh, my goodness...15 minutes for a research lesson? That will be tough!
      For third grade, see if you can get a free trial of the PebbleGo databases. They are easy to read (like the Pebble books) and the narrator will read WITH EXPRESSION! Do you use online resources for your research projects?
      And of course the nonfiction books need to have the features like table of contents to help the students navigate. I love Seymour Simon's books, but they don't have the features students need for research projects.
      I also borrow books from the public library, or ILL from other schools, so that we have the resources we need.