In my computer-based classroom, there are 14 student computers – one for every two students. When my 4th graders start the year, most of them know a few basic functions and features of a computer. In order to quickly build proficiency at using the computers as a tool for learning, I began the year with a short research project about our state. Social Studies standards for 4th grade focus predominantly on state history, so I thought this project would help us achieve several objectives with a single lesson.
Vetting the Research Websites
Most of the information gathered for our state research project was found online with several websites. There are many such helpful websites on the Internet that provide a quick assortment of facts about every state in America. A simple Google search will result in a variety of choices – choose the one you like the best. As part of my lesson preparation, I carefully screened each website. I wanted sites that provided accurate, easy-to-find information at a level that would not be too taxing for my students to read.
Modeling the Research Process
Since it was the beginning of the school year, and this was our first attempt at research, I walked the students through the process very deliberately. Using my brand-spanking-new Promethean Board (in high-def no less!), I displayed the websites for the class to see while they looked at the same site on their monitors. When researching, we discussed the information we needed and which link might best provide that to us. Here’s how it went down:
- Me: “We need to find the name of our state’s governor. Which link might give us the information?”
- Student: “Click on the one that says ‘Missouri State Governor.'”
- Me: “Why is that the link you would choose?” (Sidebar – it’s important to solicit the student’s reasoning for their decision.)
- Student: “I’m looking for the governor, and that link has the word governor in it. That website probably has what I’m looking for.”
State Research Project Printables
Here are the research pages we completed for this project.
To publish our research, I had the students create a quick portfolio out of construction paper and glue each page to one section of the portfolio. We displayed our state research project in the hall, proud of our first foray into online research!