I took this picture just the other day from my front yard – it’s the pear trees and Spring is (finally!) here. Most days I’m enjoying outside recess, despite the regular storms that come through every few days. The bright sunshine and warmer temps have given me just the boost I need to finish out the last seven weeks of this school year. 🙂
My fourth graders have also finished our first research project about famous inventors. For a first attempt, I was quite pleased. We tackled the tricky skill of paraphrasing as well as citing our sources for the first time with this mini-unit. It took us just five days to complete, which was a good first start.
With that first project “under our belt,” I gleaned a few teaching lessons that I want to pass on as you contemplate doing a short research project with your own kiddos…
- Start small.
A five-day project was just right for my first-time researchers. They learned the basics of navigating between websites, paraphrasing, taking notes and citing their sources.
- Keep it simple.
I quickly realized that citing sources APA-style was WAAAAYYYY over my students’ heads. I double-checked the Common Core standards for my grade level. No where does it require that level of accountability. So, we simply drew “bullets” and listed the websites where we found our information.
- Share your work.
Allow time at the end for students to share their work with others. My students really enjoyed sitting with their friends and reading each others’ paragraphs, especially since not everyone had chosen the same inventor to research.
More Research Projects to Come
The results of this short research project acted as a springboard into our next, longer project about Jackie Robinson. Few things are as satisfying to me professionally than to see my students deeply engaged in learning. Hearing students whisper amongst themselves while researching, “This is fun!” and receiving requests for more projects made my week. This summer, I think I will review my curriculum and look for a few more topics that can be learned through similar short research projects. It just might be the boost some of my students need to be excited about school.