I Search, You Search, We All Search for ResearchPosted: November 12, 2012
“When I read about it, I said, ‘Wow! That’s really interesting!’”
“I liked asking the questions and finding the answers.”
“Lots of the books had answers to our questions.”
In an earlier post entitled “How”, I remarked upon the excitement of Mrs. Farrell’s third grade class as they explored the world of Native American cultures, spurred by a recent visit to the Fruitlands Museum in nearby Harvard, MA.
That excitement never waned over the three week study period as the children searched for information of interest to them. The buzz in the room was palpable. Here were actively engaged students, collaborating to build knowledge. The final product, a “Lift the Flaps Poster”, was the culminating work to present what they had learned to the school community.
Research is nothing new in the classroom or the library. This project, however, was newsworthy from the start. Starting from the Common Core ELA Writing Standard: “Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic” our original intention was to have students generate thick and thin questions about subjects of their own choosing in order to work on individual short research projects. Research would take place in both the library and the classroom. We began by introducing nonfiction conventions in mini-lessons. Another mini-lesson was devoted to locating information in a resource. We were ready!
After the trip to the museum, however, and recognizing that this early in the year group projects would be more supportive, Mrs. Farrell suggested we switch gears and narrow the subject area to native American culture while still allowing the children to generate their own questions. As you can see from the lead-in quotes, she made the right decision! This is the beauty of collaboration with a classroom teacher. She knows her students so well that she can tailor a project to meet them where they are.
Another aspect contributing to the success of this unit was the careful scaffolding during the research process. Resources were chosen with the developmental and literacy levels of the students in mind. During the first session of hands-on research we were fortunate to have five adults in the room (librarian, teacher, volunteers and aides) so that each group had guidance should the going get rough.
Before beginning the second session, we added one final mini-lesson–“The Researcher’s Chair”, based on “Anticipating Reader’s Questions” from Nonfiction Craft Lessons by Joann Portalupi and Ralph Fletcher. After modeling the process, several students were chosen to sit in the Researcher’s Chair. After reading their research question and preliminary answer to the class, they fielded questions from their classmates. The queries from the class were designed to help them clarify and expand their answers. The students then met in their work groups and continued this exercise so that every student had an opportunity to refine their research. The feedback gave them focus as they continued their research.
Mrs. Farrell and I intend to continue this successful collaboration throughout the year. How can we not build on the enthusiasm of our budding researchers? And while the title of the post, which borrows from the ever popular phrase “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream”, may be a bit of a stretch, I look forward to many more enjoyable research experiences with her class and others in the school.