When Common Core standards were introduced several years ago, one of those standards was research and writing. The standards said students should participate in shared research and writing. I found this standard to be terrifying. I mean, what could go wrong with kindergartners researching something on Google?! That’s where our research projects were born. While the standards might have changed, these research projects still meet state standards and, thus, are still applicable in all classrooms! And they help make research and writing fun and developmentally appropriate!
Research Projects In The Classroom
As a teacher, I believe in doing what’s best for my students, but I also do what my district asks of me. This means providing tools and scaffolding so my students can be successful. So, if research and writing are standards, I want to find a way to make that goal accessible to my students in ways that they can be successful. I decided that research projects should be a fun, engaging way to research and write in kindergarten. So here’s how it works in our classroom!
The research projects are completed during our ELA time or literacy block. This allows us to integrate science and social studies standards while meeting ELA standards such as research and writing. The actual research is done through read-alouds and videos. The information is discussed and recorded on graphic organizers. Students then use the graphic organizers to do their writing. Our ELA block is designed for a 30-minute whole-group lesson. Our research projects use that time to be completed. The read-aloud/video and graphic organizers are done in 15-20 minutes, and the students then work on their research journals independently. We do one activity or graphic organizer each day.
Each research project includes a research journal. The research journals are where students record their learning. They write, do labeling, sorting, etc. The journals give students ownership of their learning and are a source of pride.
Each research project begins with a schema map. Students share their schema or what they already know about the topic. Every piece of schema they share is recorded on a post-it note and placed on the schema map. The post-it notes allow us to organize our thinking much like our brains organize information.
When creating our schema map, I always draw a fun picture. This helps introduce the topic and makes the learning fun!
We add our new learning to the schema map as we progress through our research projects. At the end of the research project, we re-visit our schema and address misconceptions. Misconceptions might be wrong, or they might be something where our thinking needs to be adjusted. We move misconceptions to the misconceptions area of the schema map while discussing why it’s a misconception.
The research portion of our research projects uses read-alouds and videos. As we read, we record our learning on graphic organizers. We use turn-and-talk strategies and questioning to access the information. The students also have to share the information in complete sentences. Our research projects include can/have/are charts, t-charts, circle charts, Venn Diagrams, and more. Note: each research project includes suggested read-aloud books and some research projects include video suggestions!
We record the information DURING the read-aloud. We do not wait until the end of the read-aloud because doing it after the read-aloud makes it an assessment, and we don’t want it to be that.
The students take the information from our graphic organizers and use it to write in their research journals. Differentiated journals use sentence frames for student writing. Students copy information from the charts, and they are encouraged to write on their own. As the year goes on and they build their writing skills, independent writing becomes much more natural for them. It’s also important to note that students might not be ready to write or copy so they can draw pictures and dictate their learning to you!
We also use the writing to work on the mechanics of writing. I use one-on-one conferences to help them improve their writing. Students are encouraged to use inventive/phonetic spelling when writing.
Vocabulary And Higher Order Thinking
We use labeling as part of our research projects to work on vocabulary. We label a class chart, and then students label their pictures in their research journals. The labels allow for conversations about adaptations and how each part helps or works. Our research projects are aligned with the science of reading and are a powerful tool to teach vocabulary explicitly. We know vocabulary is a MUST-have piece of the reading puzzle, and these research projects bring vocabulary instruction to the forefront!
For higher-order thinking, we use a true-false sort. This higher-order thinking activity allows students to discuss what they’ve learned. For false statements, we discuss why it’s false, and we change it into a truth statement. Students then use the true statements to write about their topic.
Each research project also contains activities specific to that topic. There might be clothing sorts for seasons. A lesson on the water cycle or a life cycle activity. For push and pull, we drew things we could push and pull. The students make a forecast for our weather research project. These additional activities allow us to target specific science and social studies standards.
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Our research projects:
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