Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Animal Research Project

I finally found the time to upload my pics and write this post!
I have start by saying thank you to Mrs. M from Mrs. M's Blog for helping me to put the final touches on this project. I had been pondering it for about a month when she blogged about her experience and even shared her organizer! It was just what I needed to put the finishing touches on what I had been mulling around in my head.

I used this project as a culminating activity to our end of the year Organisms unit. It was a perfect fit and really a perfect time of year to do it as well. We started by choosing which animal we wanted to research. I picked about 10 animals ahead of time based on the books I had in the classroom. I wanted each group to have several resources available to them at a variety of reading levels so that all children in my class could be successful. My topics included: ants, bees, grasshoppers, wolves, bears, butterflies, frogs, and spiders. 

Day 1 -I put out each stack of books in various locations in the room and had students travel to each stack. They spent about 5 minutes at each area exploring and perusing the books.

Day 2 -We finished our exploring and then I had each student write their top 3 choices on a post-it.  I then paired students together based on their choices. Most kiddos got their 1st or 2nd choice so it worked out really well. I also tried to put high and low readers together so they could support each other.

Day 3 -I went through the organizer with the kiddos and then began to model reading for information and how to use the organizer, you can find a copy of Mrs. M's organizer here, by starting my own research on monkeys. We discussed/reviewed various nonfiction conventions such as the table of contents page, labels, captions, and diagrams and how these would be helpful in their research.
Day 4 -I again modeled reading for information and how to go about marking information in their books with post-its and writing their facts on their organizers. Partners then began working on the first section of the organizer- What does it look like?

Day 5 and 6- Students continue to work together with their partners to read and locate information pertaining to their animal. I started each day with a mini lesson related to what I noticed the kiddos were struggling with.

Day 6- We got the netbooks out and did some internet research. I set up a sqworl site ahead of time with several sites that were kid appropriate. We mainly used National Geographic Kids which had fantastic information, videos, sound clips, and maps for all of the animals we were studying. The kids did a fantastic job reading, listening, and watching the info on the site. Besides hearing the sounds of frogs and wolves, and the on-topic conversations of partner groups, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone in the class was totally engrossed in what they were doing!
After digging in for a few minutes, partners were each given a slip of paper to record a fact or two from their internet research. I was amazed at the information they gathered and the connections they made. The group that was studying honeybees saw a map of where bees live and were able to figure out that bees live everywhere except where it is really cold.

Over the course of the next few days, students took all of their information and turned their facts into a nonfiction book on their animal. You can find a copy of the writing paper here, which I also got from Mrs. M. The chapter titles were simply the titles from our organizer. The facts were written in sentence format and they added illustrations to each page. The quality of their illustrations was phenomenal. I was amazed to see how they incorporated so many of the nonfiction conventions that we have discussed throughout the year including insets, labels, enlargements, captions, etc.

This student wanted to enlarge a tadpole so she drew a magnifiying glass
 and then drew one larger than the rest. Clever!!

This student used an inset as she wanted to be able
to show the butterfly's 6 legs but wasn't able
 to do that from the perspective of her original picture.
Our covers turned out awesome as well. My special education co-teacher had done a lesson revolving around colors and feelings and then did a very cool project involving shaving cream and paint with the kids. We then used these as the covers for our project by giving each child a 5x7 piece of paper to put their information on. They had to have a title, list the author and illustrator and design a cover illustration. They then glued their 5x7 piece on to their projects.

On the last day of school we invited one of the 2nd grade classes to come over and enjoy our research. My kiddos were so proud of themselves!!! It was an awesome moment to watch as they were the experts this time which made them feel so good!

Next year I'd like to use Glogster as part of this project as well as adding a table of contents page. This year we just ran out of time as we were still putting the final touches on our booklets on the last day of school. I am beyond amazed and impressed with what my class did considering this was a "let's see what they can do" project in addition to the fact that I had a very challenging class.... I will DEFINATELY be doing this project again next year. Hopefully we'll be able to start it a few weeks sooner so we aren't rushing at the end. I'd also like it to be a culminating project that we could possibly use for an author's tea and invite our parents in to enjoy our hard work.

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