Monday, December 2, 2013

Owls, books, and research - oh my!

It's December, and that means it's time for students in all grade levels to prepare for the upcoming research project. But I'm adding a new twist to the introduction to the research process this year that will hopefully make the experience more enjoyable and meaningful for the students. 
My preferred research method is the Big6 by Michael Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz. I've used this method many times over the past few years, and I think it's great. I like the way Eisenberg and Berkowitz have broken down the process into six simple steps. Following the steps makes the research process much less daunting for students. For the younger ones in grades Kindergarten through 5, I use the Super3 method, which is a simplified version of Big6 and was also created by Eisenberg and Berkowitz. 

As I said before, I'm putting a new twist into research lessons this year. I've seen quite a few librarians are covering owls this time of year, and who can blame them. Owls are mysterious, magical creatures. They seem to have the entire world to themselves while we sleep. So I decided to incorporate owls into my research methods unit. 

While we are working on Big6 and Super3, I'll also encourage students to apply many of the skills we have covered in the past few months. For example, last month we read The Scarecrow's Dance by Jane Yolen. That was an easy tie into Owl Moon, also by Yolen (I can't get enough of Jane Yolen's books!). When I told students we would read another book by the same author, their faces lit up, and a couple students pointed out that I had made a text-to-text connection. 

While I read the book to students, I pause every now and then to have them make inferences such as "What do you think the author means when she says they are going 'owling'?" or review vocabulary terms like talons and nocturnal

Just like last month with The Scarecrow's Dance, students clapped when the reading was over. Success!

I don't limit myself to just print books however. Discovery Education has a video about the book, which I play for students after reading the book aloud myself. I like using the video because the narrator doesn't hoot. I let the students add their own hoots so they can be a part of this second reading. It's a lot of fun for all of us. 

Back to the research aspect - the way I'm tying this into Big6 and Super3 is: first, I'm going to review the methods' steps and discuss information sources in both print and electronic resources. Then they will go on a fact-finding mission in which they will access online or print resources to learn three new things about owls. This give them the chance to use WorldBook Online or EBSCO's Searchasaurus database. 

For the younger students (pre-Kindergarten through 1st Grade), we also read Quick, Quiet, and Feathered by Moira Butterfield. This book is great for introducing new vocabulary words, like talon and nocturnal, as well as learning about the owl's diet. A Book of Sleep  by Il Sung Na is also a favorite for sharing the sleeping habits of owls. 

Students will use the information they found to complete a mini-report and share with the class. I would love to use some sort of technology for their final product, like creating a presentation using Aurasma, Educreations or Facetalk. But it all really depends on time (December is a very busy month, as I'm sure you already know). 

This isn't meant to be an exhaustive project - it's just supposed to get students into the habit of being more independent. Too often they rely on me as an information source, and I'm trying to help them be more confident about their own research skills and ability to evaluate information sources. 

I think this is going to be a very engaging way for them to practice their research skills. Let's hope they agree! 

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