Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Behind the Books: Stepping Up to Research

About a year ago, Ellen Brandt, the school librarian at Westford Middle School in Westford, MA, shared this Wordle with me:
And I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I was stunned. Why did students think research was boring? It’s one of the things I love most about my job.

In my quest for an answer, I interviewed teachers, librarians, and kids. I compared what students were doing in school to my own process. And I discovered two important facts.

1. Real research is active and self driven. It requires creative thinking.
2. It’s difficult to create authentic research experiences for early elementary students.

And so I developed some fun activities to help early-elementary students develop research skills without them even realizing it. If you’re interested in what I came up with, check out these links:

But still, I wanted to dig deeper. And that’s why I was so excited to hear about some new findings from Colleen Cruz, a staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. Here’s what they found.

The best nonfiction writing occurs when early-elementary research experiences are scaffolded as follows:

1. Organize and categorize information 
     (a) based on personal experiences
     (b) on a topic students care deeply about

2. Organize, categorize, and compare observations.

3. Conduct guided research.
4. Conduct cold research.

I’ll provide more details about each of these steps over the next few weeks.

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