Friday, June 8, 2012


Warning: Long Post!

Today was the last day of school. This year was so challenging. It almost broke me. Thankfully, I made it through, and my eyes are set on summer. I've made no plans, no specific vacations, no summer work. Just living.

It was tough to see a few kids cry today when they were leaving. I know that I was more to them than a teacher. A friend, confidant, and role model. Even though a small group drove me to insanity, I'm so thankful for the rest of my class. They were so tolerant, kind, and helpful. After grade three, they leave my building to go to the upper elementary school, and it breaks my heart that I might not see some of them again.

On the last day, I give each child an envelope addressed to me at the school address. I encourage them to write me a letter over the summer so that we can keep in touch. Last year, three wrote me. I hope to get a few back this summer as well.

One more note-- THANK YOU to everyone who commented on my last post! It really lifted my spirits! And I totally agree that we should rate each other's work, but without feedback on a "low" rating, it doesn't help much, ya know?


Now, onto my research project! I look forward to the end of the school year for obvious reasons. But in writing, it means that we are researching!

Last year, I let my students pick any nonfiction topic. This year, my class needed a lot more structure and support, so I narrowed it down to animals. First, I allowed my students to choose any animal.  I was going to give them a list, but thought I'd give some freedom. We completed a thinking map. We talked about only writing things that we knew to be true for our prior knowledge. We also talked about misconceptions. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, so we didn't have a chance to go back and visit our organizers to search for any misconceptions. But hey, they learned a vocabulary word. Then, they wrote a few things they were wondering about their animal. We talked about subtopics, and we all researched diet, physical characteristics, and habitat. A fourth subtopic was optional.

Next, they needed to gather their resources. I required that each student used at least two resources. At least one of them had to be a book/encyclopedia. The other could be an internet resource. I could provide them with the research from the internet or they could do it from home. I wish I could have let them do it themselves on the internet, but our computer lab was booked up due to state testing. Once they decided what resources they were going to use, they had to "code" the resources. I used R1, R2, R3. Though they did not have to cite the sources in their research paper, I wanted to open their eyes to the fact that they need to give credit to where they find information.

I then provided them with fact slips, pockets, and manila folders. We made the pockets, and miraculously, only a few of them glued them shut/upside down/completely wrong. I was pleasantly surprised. To make the pockets, you cut out the image, bend the triangles back, put glue where it says glue, and position it on the manila folder. Then, they put a small piece of clear tape on the bottom of each pocket. I was going to add a tab there to fold and glue, but I thought that would be disastrous. As for the fact strips, I made tons of copies and pre-cut them. You could also just use regular lined paper if you have a copy limit [which I thankfully do not!] Students then go through their resources, collect information, and place it into the correct pocket. Here is what it should look like:

When the students are finished collecting information, I have them go through and ensure that each pocket only has information pertaining to that subtopic. If it does not, they need to switch it or discard it. This was hard for some students, as they wanted to write every little random fact they found. Next, students took all the cards out of the diet pocket. They arranged them on their desks in a way that made sense to them. I didn't give them much direction with this, as I needed to assess how their paragraphs would flow. They began each paragraph with a topic sentence, then the body, then ended with a conclusion. Repeat times 2 [or 3]. They did each paragraph on a separate piece of paper so that they could order the body paragraphs on their own.

Have you noticed that we haven't done the introduction paragraph? I got this idea from Life in 4B. She gave them a kind of "fill in the blank" introduction and conclusion paragraph. Again, mine is much more simplistic. It is kept until after we write the body of the essay so that we can include some of these facts into them. Same idea with the conclusion paragraph. Your rough copy is complete. Continue with your writing process as usual!

To display our work, we completed this TN craft. I took some artistic liberty with some of the parts. I made the body bigger because I needed to fit a full size piece of paper. We left off the legs/boots because I wanted them all to fit on my bulletin board. Obv some of the glue wasn't up to par, as a few safari friends seemed to have let go of their binoculars. I hot glued the TP rolls to the head so that they would stick. We had no casualties.  Here's how mine turned out! The little sign in the corner says "Look out for our animal research projects!"

I'm so happy with how this went. Even my most reluctant writers would groan when we had to stop working! I think it had to do with the tangible way we collected the information, the interest in their topic, and the craft that wasn't allowed to be completed until everything else was finished! Feel free to grab this activity below as a freebie to store for next year, check out the craft I purchased from Buzzing About Learning's TN, or visit Life in 4B for a more in depth research experience!

Click HERE to download the file from google docs! =)


  1. I think everyone is writing about writing! I'm glad to read it because I need all the help I can get (writing is not my favorite thing to far!) I like the craft that went with the research...very cute!!

    Following Optimism in 2nd Grade

  2. OMG. I love the idea of giving the kids an envelope with the school address. I totally wish I would have thought about that! I have to write that down for next year :) Enjoy your summer!

    Dirty Hands and Lesson Plans

  3. I really love the letter idea! So cute!

  4. This is awesome! I am just starting to teach 3rd grade next year and we end the year with an animal research paper. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    I also just started my own blog. Stop by and check it out. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I hope to be able to share some useful stuff!

  5. I LOVE your research project! However, I am not a subscriber of the site the pdf is on. Is there another way to download the materials packet? Thanks!

  6. I love this too. How can I download this? I looked on Teachers pay teachers and it's not on there. Scribd wants to charge me, but I wouldn't ever use Scribd for anything else.
    This is amazing and I love how it combines ELA and science.

    1. Hey Jenn,

      Thanks for your comment! I wrote this post a while ago, before I knew that google docs and TPT were the best ways to share documents. I've been meaning to update this file anyway! You can now click the link at the end of the post for an updated version through google docs. I'm about to start this project in my classroom as well, so I hope it works for you! =)