Today I attended a workshop sponsored by the Champlain Valley Educator Development Center and the Vermont Department of Education on short research projects and the Common Core State Standards. Here are some of my big takeaways from the meeting:
Narrow the question: Narrowing the focus/narrowing the research question is an essential part of this process, whether it’s done by the teacher ahead of time or by students doing individual research projects.
Notes aren’t just words on an index card: Speaker Diana Leddy presented a model research project for K-1 students about the phases of the moon. She called notes “recording information.” Her students took “notes” on precut circles of black constructions paper, using chalk to draw what each phase of the moon looked like. Then they used these manipulative notes to demonstrate their understanding of the sequence of phases. This idea really expanded my thinking about what student notetaking might look like. Diana’s excellent presentation is available on the Vermont Education Exchange (ve2) website, but you will have to log in to ve2 to view it. If you haven’t yet created an account at ve2.vermont.gov I highly recommend it!
Writing standards: While ELA Writing standard 7 calls for research projects, ELA Writing standards 1 and 2 define what the writing should look like.
Shared projects and modeling: the CCSS for younger grades allow for “shared projects.” These are a good way to model the process of reading, writing, and doing research.
Speaking and Listening Standards and social skills instruction: At the K-2 levels in particular, Speaking and Listening Standard 1 (Comprehension and Collaboration) has many connections to explicit social skills instruction: from the second grade standard “Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).”