Monday, July 10, 2017

How to Use Inquiry Based Group Research Projects- Step 1

Collaboration, negotiation, and compromise. Although these may be considered "soft skills",  the development of these skills is critical to the success of our students in the 21st Century. In this series of posts, I'll share how to meet multiple language arts, science, and social studies standards with one engaging project that also helps students develop important life skills.

With so much to teach, we have to be fiercely protective of our instructional time. An inquiry based group research project is a great way to teach so much: asking questions, determining importance, summarizing, finding the main idea, synthesizing, non-fiction text features, writing conventions... not to mention the science and social studies content the students are learning!  As a bonus, students are learning real life skills like collaboration, negotiation, and compromise. Whew!   Now that's a powerful project!

Here's what you need to do to get started:

1. Pick the topics, determine groups, and gather resources.

There are so many topics that could be used for this research project. You can start by looking at your standards or just asking your kids what topics they are interested in learning about.  Knowing that my students loved to learn about animals, I chose this as a topic for our inquiry project.  We discussed ideas and voted for 4 that we wanted to research. We had to narrow the focus to make it more manageable. The students decided to research frogs, sharks, wolves, and snakes.

Once you have determined the focus of your research, you will want to divide the students into groups.  You can assign the groups or let them choose.  I like giving choice because it motivates the students even more.

Next, gather resources that your students will need to complete the project.  Depending on the age of your students, finding appropriate resources could be part of the project itself.  In my second grade classroom, I gathered books (at a large range of reading levels) and magazines that my students could use and placed them into bins.  You may also want to consider digital resources.  We used "Facts4Me" for one.

I would also recommend picking a separate topic that you as the teacher can use for modeling purposes.  I picked turtles as my animal to use for modeling.  The gradual release of responsibility is so important!

You will also need to consider your audience and final product.  Creating a rubric together or providing one to guide the students is a good way to keep the project on track. Will students be creating a book or report?  How about a mural?  Maybe student creations will be shared digitally. Who will see or read these creations?  Keeping your audience and final product in mind helps guide the project and keeps the students motivated.  You will want to have this discussion with your students.  Again, when students have some choice in the direction and purpose of the project, they are typically more engaged.

Now that you have your topics, your groups, and your resources, you are ready to begin!  My next post will explain how to model asking and answering questions.

Follow me in this series to learn how to:
1) Pick the topics, determine groups, and gather resources.
2) Gather information by asking and answering questions.
3) Summarize, Synthesize, and Write!
4) Polish and Publish
5) Share

**If you stick with me until the end of this series, I will have a freebie for you! Follow me to get the updates!

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