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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Teaching Kids Research-part 1


Note: This blog is the first in a two part series.

One of the hardest things to teach~ in my opinion~ is how to get students to research.

As a teacher of gifted~ who uses the independent study method with my first-through-fifth-grade students~ I face the challenge of guiding children through the research process. When beginning projects~ they are required to research answers to self-chosen topics and utilize various resources and techniques to make that happen.

Frustrated by a lack of results~ I have searched long and hard to find anything that will help make this task more enjoyable and more effective. During that search~ I have come across some very helpful web sites and discovered some important strategies that I would like to share with you over the course of these two posts.

Before I share these sites~ I would like to spend this post explaining how I set up students on research and get them started.
After choosing a topic~ I require my students to generate 10 questions. These questions become the framework of the research and serve as a starting point. Later~ students will likely add questions or revise their questions. The questions are based on the five Ws: who~ what~ where~ when~ and why.
The questions are written in a Microsoft Word document~ which is saved to a shared drive that I can access from around the school campus (by having students use a electronic rather than written document~ I can also e-mail their research to parents to keep them involved in the process).
Before researching the questions~ I discuss with my students the various sources they can use. In addition to the Internet~ they realize they can use books and magazines in the schools media center. They also are required to interview an expert in their chosen topic. For example~ if a student is studying a particular species of snake~ they could contact a biologist~ who could provide them with information.
Since I instruct students as young as six years old in research~ I need to start very simplebaby steps I call it. Using the Internet~ I have the student conduct a key word search using Google or another search engine. I help students narrow their search and we look at the results. We open different web sites~ and I explain the website and ask some simple questions such as who created this site? and is this person or organization an expert in the topic you have chosen? I also ask them whether the site is reliable and can we trust the information?

Once we find a solid web site~ I scan through it with the student and help them read a passage. I then help them extract one point or fact from the passage. Using the Word document~ I have them type the information in their own words. I tell them to imagine they were explaining this information to a friend or their parents.

This simple approach gets them on the path to effective research~ no matter the grade or age. In the next blog~ I plan to share a web site that will dramatically help students with following the path of research and provide various tools that fit their learning style.
To comment on this topic~ please visit the Gifted and Enrichment group at http://community.educationworld.comcontent/teaching-kids-research-part-1-0?gid=NTEyMQ==