Thursday, May 1, 2014

First graders and the research process

As a way to develop their understanding that making observations leads to discoveries, first graders complete a research project where they investigate a particular dinosaur. The research process that one first grade classroom followed can be found on our school's media website, under the tab "Research". This is a five-step research process where kids plan, gather, organize, share, and evaluate.

Plan: The children wrote down a question that they had about dinosaurs on a sticky note and stuck it to a piece of chart paper.

Then, as a class, the students sorted the questions into categories and came up with four general questions that covered all the individual questions they were asking.

  1. What did they look like?
  2. What did they eat?
  3. How did they travel?
  4. When and where did they live?
Note: This process is the beginning of the Visible Thinking Routine, "Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate" from the book Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison. Students first generated questions and then sorted them into their own categories with which they would organize their thinking and research. Creating categories this way, instead of using prescribed, teacher-created categories, makes the research more engaging, relevant, challenging, and significant for the students. It is construction of knowledge and understanding. It is INQUIRY! 

Gather: In groups of three, students used information pages that the teacher had found and books to answer their questions on one particular dinosaur.

Organize: Students used a flap book (a folded piece of paper with the top half cut into four flaps. Students wrote the questions on the top flaps and the answers were written on the inside underneath each question) to record the answers to their questions that were driving their research. 

Share: The first grade students worked in the computer lab for two days, transferring the information contained in their flap books into Google Presentations. The first day, they typed everything in. The second day, they added pictures and went back to check for periods and capital letters. They obviously didn’t catch all of their errors, but they did “edit” them.

from the Velociraptor presentation

from the Tyrannosaurus Rex presentation

from the Triceratops presentation
from the Ankylosaurus presentation
Then, on the third day they presented them to the class.

Evaluate: After each presentation, students in the audience asked questions and offered comments to the presenting students. Student comments included things they liked or found interesting in each presentation.

The classroom teacher evaluated the students by observing them throughout the research process.

After reading about how 1st graders followed the research process of plan, gather, organize, share, and evaluate to learn more about dinosaurs, how could you or have you used the research process with your students?

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