We've begun teaching research this year. It's a year-long process in the fourth grade. Let's face it, it's a life-long process. In the past, I've used Genius Hour as a vehicle to increase student engagement and authentic learning. I still think Genius Hour is a fantastic platform. This year, however, I have other student needs that I don't think will fit with a true Genius Hour approach. If we do get there, it will not be until the Spring of the year. Meeting the students where they are in their learning process is more important than being "wed" to a project, or program, or idea. Research, however, is not something we can pass by. I needed to create a different path to meet the needs of the learners in my classroom.
To foster the growth of skills needed for independent research (because, after all, that is what Genius Hour is), I have put together a series of guided research assignments for my class.
In this first assignment, readers will see that websites are selected for students to use for their research. At this age, I want to keep not only inappropriate content away from my students, but need to select reading material that is appropriate for their ages and abilities.
The first research activity in my class is a general introduction to our state. We begin the research with an engagement video and offer the students four website to look through.
Limiting the number of websites is important at this age, offering choice in an assignment is equally important, regardless of age. Students were given a few days to complete the assignment--which was just to find six facts on their topic and to draft one question that they might still have after having completed their research.
Students returned with facts in hand and we began the business of learning how to draft a topic sentence that introduces the main idea. Since this is their first non-fiction writing activity this year, writing is very guided. I meet with students in small groups so that all students have a chance to focus on the lesson, try their hand at the skill, and receive feedback. Writing Workshop offers a template for meeting in small groups as all students are engaged in an activity and all students receive support or time with the teacher.
The whole series of research handouts with linked websites can be found on my Genius Hour page. I can't wait to see the first of their finished research assignments!