After learning about a really cool idea at the FAME (Florida Association for Media in Education) conference where the media specialist collaborated with a teacher to be part of her small group rotations, I decided to give it a try! Thankfully, I had a first grade teacher who was willing to jump on board with allowing me to be a small group rotation. She sent me a small group of her students and we worked on independent animal research projects. Yes, you heard right – Independent RESEARCH projects with FIRST GRADE!
I pulled appropriate level animal books for the students to start the project with print material. After the students picked an animal and recorded some facts, we moved to an online database, PebbleGo. If you haven’t used PebbleGo yet, go to their website and request a free trial. It is by far one of the best research databases for younger students. It has a great user-interface and will read the passages to students so it is perfect for all abilities. I had the students record their information on this free printable from Teachers Pay Teachers. The worksheet had various stages of collecting facts, transitioning to sentences, and then to a paragraph form. I used the three versions to adapt for different abilities. Some students only used the first page and some all 3, depending on their ability.
The next step was the coolest! I got this idea from Jennifer Underhill – Students highlighted key words in their research and using WordArt, created word clouds in the shape of their animals! There were so many educational components to this project from research in print, online, key word identification, synthesizing information and presenting information in a new medium. It was awesome to see how successful these first graders were with their first research project!
This was a great activity to do as an introduction to research and the students really loved being able to create the word cloud for their animal. I really kept this hands-on for the students and had them not only choose their animal, research and write their own facts, but also type and edit their own word cloud too! They loved playing with the font options and color combinations for the words. This is one of those examples of students rising to expectations and surpassing them. I am one proud librarian!