Repackaging the Daunting Research Project: Ideas from AASL 2017
By Laura Guest
How many of your students jump up and down yelling “Yippie” when you tell them they are going to write a research paper? Would many of them have a different reaction if you reworded it from ‘write a research paper’ to ‘create a nonfiction book’? After attending Innovative Activities for Teaching Nonfiction Reading and Writing by author Melissa Stewart, I realized a research paper IS a non-fiction book!
We often teach text features such as a table of contents, glossary, index, and labels on a photograph or diagram to our youngest students (I start in kindergarten). My first graders practice identifying images of each of the above, they answer questions after looking at each of the above and write labels on a diagram. One of Melissa’s suggestions was to read a picture book a day and have students draw an image from the book and label it to demonstrate their understanding. So simple; it is something I can add to my lesson plans instantly.
In the past, I have had my first graders read two books about an animal, take notes and merge the information to create one page in a class animal book. Their paragraph is below an illustration of their animal. This year I will add a map of the world so they can color and label where their animals lives. I will have students in my sixth grade classes locate copyright free images for the first graders to use for labeling the parts of their animal. In order for students to authentically practice the text features, I will have them create a glossary entry using a word from their page. They will use a marker to trace over the word; creating a bolded word. They will group their animals into categories and help name the chapters such as hoofed animals, animals of the sea etc. Third grade CCSS include “3.RI.5 Use text features and search tools to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently” as well as “3.W.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.” This would be the perfect place to collaborate with the classroom teacher to change the research project from a paper to a nonfiction book. Students can access books and electronic information for note taking during library and learn about proper citations. After the “paper” is written in class, it can be
broken into chapters. Students can create illustrations, maps, diagrams to further explain their text and then create the table of contents, a glossary and an index! I think this change will help it to be a more memorable assignment and a more permanent part of the student.