Wrapping Up the Research Projects

I  shared first, second, and third grade research projects in previous posts.  All of these were great projects on animals.  The fourth and fifth graders also finished up their research projects;  Their projects were designed to add College and Career Readiness standards, focusing on the decision-making process.

Fourth graders research natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, forest fires, and hurricanes.  As part of their research  they had to create a safety plan for themselves.  In addition to understanding the disaster itself and how to stay safe, students had to apply the safety knowledge they learned to their own life, making decisions on what to do in the event of the disaster. Students created a PowerPoint presentation to share the information they learned.  This was a great way to review the skills learned earlier in the year on making a presentation.  Learning how to make PowerPoints must have worked because one of the teachers commented on how the students are creating PowerPoints for everything now and talking about animations and transitions!  It is always great to hear how the work done in the library is transferred back into the classroom.

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The fifth graders conducted career research.  Each student chose a career and researched what the career was, what education was needed, famous people or contributions made in that career, and what character traits were needed to be successful in that career.  Students used many different resources including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, encyclopedias, and college/university websites.  Students were very excited about the research, working on it outside of library as well.  Some students decided after their research that they are no longer interested in that career, but now they have the skills to research other careers that interest them.  Fifth grade also created PowerPoints to share their knowledge and present the careers to their classmates.  The teacher commented that students were also working on the presentations in their classroom and students were teaching each other how to add sound, pictures, animations to students who needed help.  I love hearing that students are able to teach others the new skills they learned.

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Fifth Graders Listen to Steve Sheinkin

Field Trip!  Steve Sheinkin visited the Central Branch of the Rochester Public Library today, and my fifth grade students, along with the 5th grade teachers and myself went!  There is nothing more exciting, I think, than to hear an author talk about their work:  their ideas, their process, their challenges.   Some people get excited when they see a famous actor; I get excited when I see an author.

Steve talked to a large group of students about four of his recent titles:  The Notorious Benedict Arnold:  A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery; Bomb:  The Race to Build- and Steal- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon; Port Chicago 50:  Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight For Civil Rights; and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers.  Steve captivated the students with details from the books without giving too much away.  He had just enough creepy/grossness factor to entertain a large group of 10-11 year olds and shared how he started writing, mostly by accident.  He wanted to create films when he grew up, then started writing textbooks, then moved on to his fascinating narrative nonfiction books. He patiently answered questions from many students, autographed a book for a student, and even posed for a picture with me.

After the fifth graders listened to Steve talk, they had lunch in the courtyard on a beautiful sunny day.  Then, we took the students to the children’s section to check out books!  Some students were getting their own library card, others had brought their library cards from home.  The students had an awesome time judging by the pictures below.

Steve Sheinkin talks to the students at Rochester Public Library

Steve Sheinkin talks to the students at Rochester Public Library

Taking a moment to read

Taking a moment to read

Lined up outside the library to see Steve Sheinkin

Lined up outside the library to see Steve Sheinkin

Looking for a good book to share

Looking for a good book to share

Steve Sheinkin and I

Steve Sheinkin and I

Second Grade HaikuDecks

The second graders have finished their backyard animal research! Usually we research the wilder animals, but they were digging deep into endangered animals in the classroom. Clearly, I needed a new topic.  My inspiration came when I was watching our resident skunk in early January eat seed that fell from our bird feeder.  I realized it would be great to learn more about the animals we see up close.

My backyard skunk

My backyard skunk

The students used PebbleGo and a nonfiction text to find information about their animal.  Questions ranged from more basic  (what they look like, what they eat) to more complex (how their feet/tracks help them, how they adapt to their environment).  The thinking questions were harder for students to answer; they were afraid to get the answer wrong!  I explained many times that if they can support their answer with information they have gathered, then their answer won’t be wrong.

When all the information was gathered, we started creating our presentations.  Sharing what we learned with others is the best part of research.  Each pair of students created their own Haikudeck.  Students worked hard to type in the text on each slide, but were very excited to be able to add pictures!  I kept that part a secret until the hard work of typing was done.

Chipmunks HaikuDeck

Lilah and Cheyenne present their HaikuDeck on chipmunks

HaikuDeck on Chipmunks

Australian Animal Research

3rd grade reserach1The third graders are researching Australian animals and learning how to work with a partner.  Collaboration is an important skill for students to learn, but I sometimes wonder if eight-years-old is too early.  Some students work well together; others view the collaboration as a time to have fun rather than work.  This has been a learning tool for me as well.  Last year after taking a class on collaboration in the classroom, I worked on collaborative projects with second, third and fourth grades.  Students are collaborating in the same grades again this year.  Similar projects, different topics. What a difference a year can make!

I am glad to see that the students are engaged in their work.  They are excited about the animals they chose and are finding some exciting things to share. Our final product will a class book on the Australian animals researched with each pair of students creating a two-page spread. This year I added something new to the project. I used Blendspace, a great curation tool, to gather all the resources for students in one place. Here is a link to the resources the students are using: https://www.blendspace.com/lessons/_C8QdL560PR6fg/australian-animals

I like to review the students’ research packets after each class to see what types of notes they are taking and to identify where I can support them.  This is where I am reminded that all students are different and what works to motivate one student might not work with another. Reviewing the packets is also a great way to conference with the students, albeit asynchronously! I don’t always get to visit each student during class, and reviewing their work keeps me informed. I will even write notes back to the students if corrections are needed, (hoping they read them!) and to say “Great job!” when things are going well.

We should be moving on to creating the class book in another week or two. We will use Bookemon to create the book online and then purchase a copy for our library. The students love reading last year’s books.

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Springing Into Research

I am not sure why, but for me, spring is a time for research.  Perhaps it is because I have introduced the skills students need to be ready to research, or perhaps it is the season of awakening that inspires curiosity.  Whatever the reason, most of my students have begun or will soon start a research project.

First graders started their research last week.  They are investigating hedgehogs:  what they are, where they live, their babies, and even some cool and unusual facts.  This is a whole class project and we started by introducing hedgehogs with a fiction book, Hedgie’s Surprise by Jan Brett.  Let me just say how amazed I was at the students’ behavior.  They cannot usually sit still for an entire story, but this time they all did!  It is true that the story is quite suspenseful, drawing listeners in to discover how the hedgehog tricks the Tomten into leaving the hen’s eggs alone after trying several different decoys.

This week we are exploring PebbleGo’s database on hedgehogs.  Each student will take notes on what we learned about the body, food, habitat and life cycle.  We will also watch a few videos; there is nothing quite as fascinating as a hedgehog in action!  Plus watching animals in action is a great way to learn about them.  Video also encourages students to put what they see into their own words and not copy text word for word from a written source.  As we work on our research we are adding questions we have about hedgehogs.  Finally, we will explore any new questions we have as we read from selected nonfiction texts on hedgehogs.

I teach students that part of finding out new information is sharing that new knowledge with others.  After we finish our research, we will create a book about hedgehogs. The students looked at the book last year’s first grade class created on sloths, and they were excited to become authors themselves.  Stay tuned for the upcoming books from the three first grade classes in a future post.  Our other grades are starting their research projects very soon, so check back to see what they are learning and creating.IMG_0963IMG_0965

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Fifth Grade Blogging

The fifth graders are learning how to blog!  To introduce this unit we discussed the purpose of blogging, reviewed blogging etiquette, and digital citizenship expectations.  Students viewed a variety of blogs with different purposes and found that most blogs carry a conversational tone and have an identifiable audience.  Student then practiced writing a blog post on paper and commenting on others’ posts.  After that, we were ready to create our own blog.

We will be using Kidblog; it allows the teacher to manage and view students’ blog posts and maintain student privacy.  Students have chosen a background theme and a title for their blog, thought this was challenging for many students. The purpose of our blog is to reflect on our upcoming research project on careers.  Students will be exploring one career of choice, researching the career itself, the skills needed for the career, and important contributions (achievements, accomplishments) in the field/career. The blog will be the students’ journal: collecting resources, reflecting on the research process (difficulties and successes), and reflecting on steps the student would need to take to work in their chosen field.

Some students have been hesitant about blogging, feeling unsure of what to say in the blog.  Others are extremely excited about writing their thoughts.  As we continue to work on blogging, I an confident that those hesitant students will become more comfortable with blogging. Reading their blog posts has been interesting, not only for the career aspirations they have, but also for how they choose to present their ideas.  Some used numbered lists; others wrote one long paragraph.  A few students engaged the readers by asking for their thoughts and comments on the post.

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Third Graders Write Books

Mrs. Arendt's 3rd Grade Friday Library Class Book

Mrs. Arendt’s 3rd Grade Friday Library Class Book

The third graders have finished creating a book about the rainforest.  They began researching in April (see Rainforest Animal Research post), but because we only have one class per week, it does take some time to finish!  The students used an online tool called Bookemon.  Working with their partner each pair created a two-page spread on the animal they researched.  They also included some pictures of their animal  To finish the book, we worked as a class to choose a title and cover art.  I have two third grade classes, so we created one book for each class.  The books can be seen here and here.

Cover of book for Tuesday's class

Cover of book for Tuesday’s class