Sunday, October 18, 2015

Digilit Sunday - Short Bursts of Research


I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.
     In September, I attended an Ohio Writing Project conference, and loved Angela Faulhaber's presentation on research.  One of the things that stuck with me was that research should be done all year round in our classrooms instead of waiting until that one big research project.  Now I'm trying to find frequent opportunities to ask big questions about topics that show up in our reading, answer those questions using online websites and articles, and share our learning with each other - all in a short amount of time.  This may seem like a simple concept, and it is.  It's one of those "Duh!" moments - why haven't I been doing this?!
     The first opportunity that arose was with my sixth graders with our read aloud, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park.  In it, two tribes are mentioned: The Dinka and the Nuer.  The conflict between the two is important to the story.  I split the class into two groups, assigning a tribe to each one.  Together, they generated 5 big questions about the tribe, split into pairs to research one question apiece, and then charged them to collaborate on a Google Slides presentation to show the other group.  We worked on it for about 15 minutes for three days, along with working on other things.  At one point, one of my sixth graders proclaimed, "This is fun!"
     The second opportunity arose with my fifth graders.  We are at the tail end of our Empathy unit, and small groups read A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass, Rules by Cynthia Lord, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio while I read Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper aloud.  Each group took the condition the characters struggled with in their books and researched it.  They were fascinated, and we learned a lot about synesthesia, autism, and craniofacial disorders.  I will do a presentation on cerebral palsy.
     The kids loved collaborating, and I even saw evidence of them commenting on each other's slides from home (that was not required) on Google.  I missed the opportunity to require a bibliography slide with the sixth graders, but I did with the fifth graders.  I was also able to talk about reliable websites, cross-checking information, and working in groups. Were they perfect?  No.  There was not a lot of time to revise, edit, and verify information. I couldn't be sure they were using the best sources even though I circulated the room and helped when they need it.  However, I believe my students will understand research as fun, interesting, and part of daily life.  Information is at their fingertips.  They need to know how to use it reliably, effectively, and quickly.  I'm hoping that these short bursts of research will be a common part of our learning in class, and there will be no groans when I say it's time to research something!  Best of all, I didn't grade it!  A lot of times, especially with gifted kids, students are offended if I don't grade something.  They didn't even bat an eye this time when I told them I just wanted us to learn; I wasn't going to evaluate the final projects.
Fifth graders presenting on autism
Sixth graders researching their topic 
Here are links to some of the Google Presentations:


  1. I love this! Real learning. No grading. We are reading together Fish in a Tree and my students have so many questions about dyslexia. So this is where I can go, "Duh!" I've been wanting to find an expert, but why not get the kids on it. They can become experts! Don't you love those aha moments. Thanks!

  2. This is amazing. How have I not followed you before! Margaret and I are both reading Fish in a Tree. I want to have my kids research Dyslexia and teach about it too! Thanks for this.

  3. Holly, it is wonderful that you allowing your students choice to let their voices rise. Collaborative, authentic projects lead students to multiple paths of inquiry that is vital to their growth as learners. I enjoyed your students' journey. As an aside, my son was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy and lived life as a disabled child in an able-bodied world. He is now classified as a disabled adult but the journey is a struggle of fortitude and faith. If your students want real-life information on cerebral palsy they can speak with Derek. I am sure he would be willing to contribute his thoughts on the matter.