Well, I just got the call…no school again tomorrow “due to inclement weather.” Remember that post I wrote back in December about how much I was enjoying my snow day? Yeah. That feeling has past. As one of my friends recently posted on Facebook: “Winter – you’re dead to me.” So, what’s a teacher to do on her 18th day off? My papers are graded, lesson plans created, laundry done, checkbook balanced, dishwasher running…might as well get caught up on a few more blog posts, too. 🙂
Every year when my students read The King in the Kitchen, about an accidental invention of super glue, I take time during Science to have them research a famous inventor. For one thing, it ties in perfectly with the theme of discovery in our story. It’s also a standard in our state’s science grade-level expectations – “research biographical information about a scientist or inventor.” This unit also gives me a chance to teach my students how to research information from online sources, paraphrase while taking notes and citing their sources. So, yeah, it’s basically jam-packed with learning goodness!
Short Research Projects
Our Internet Investigation is a week-long short research project. CCSS W.4.7 states that students will “conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.” Since I have a computer-based classroom, it makes perfect sense that our sources of information would come from websites. Of course, there are a lot of great books in my school’s library about inventors, but first things first. Let’s begin by teaching the process of research with a single source of information before branching out into other sources. Baby steps.
We started with a short video clip I found online through United Streaming, which led into a group discussion about inventors:
- What does an inventor do?
- Why do we need inventors?
- What has been invented in our classroom?
You see where this is going…inventors profoundly affect our lives! Their inventions are literally everything that’s not found in nature.
Inventors are Introduced
Next I shared a selected list of inventors to my students. From this list I wanted them to choose one inventor to research. I specifically varied the inventors by gender and ethnicity. So when Carlea asked, “Are there any women inventors?” I could answer, “Absolutely! You can choose one from our list!” Girl power!! This step is where any hidden sales talent you might have within needs to come out. I gave a really impassioned micro-lecture about each inventor. My goal was to generate a lot of enthusiasm for what these talented thinkers created and how that has shaped our lives. I mean, can you imagine life without a remote control for your TV??? To a 10-year-old, that is unfathomable! It blew their minds when I explained that when I was in 4th grade, I had to sit within arm’s reach of the television because I was my dad’s remote control!!!
Selections are Made
Now that my kiddos were sufficiently fired up about inventors, I gave them a few minutes to discuss with their classmates which inventor they wanted to research. My list had 12 inventors on it. You could, of course, expand that and allow your students to choose from any number of great inventors. I, however, was on schedule and needed to get this project wrapped up in just five days. (Remember…I’ve lost 18 days of instruction to snow, sleet and ice!)
Once I recorded the inventor each student chose to research, it was time to move on to the next step – creating a research portfolio. Students were given an 11″x17″ piece of construction paper, which they folded in half. They then cut out Research Pockets and Note Cards. The pockets were glued to the inside of their portfolio and had research questions already printed on them. Their note cards were stored inside each pocket – one per question. Finally, I sent home a letter to their families explaining our project and to look forward to the completed product.
More to Come
So that was Day 1 of our short research project about inventors. I love integrating reading, researching, writing, technology and content areas together into a focused and fun lesson. Stay tuned next week as I write about Day 2 – researching and paraphrasing!