Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Animal Research - Parts 2, 3, and 4

In Animal Research - Part 1, you saw how students pre-planned for their research by using the table of contents and index to infer the chapter titles, key words, and page numbers where they would most likely find information on the habitat, diet, and defense mechanisms of their animals. (*I recently posted an updated version of all the student research/notes sheets at my TpT store. Check them out if our process interests you, and it works with your brain!)

In our next research session, I showed students how to cite their non-fiction book by modeling with my own non-fiction book by including the title, the author, and the copyright date. Since our non-fiction book was our first resource, 'R1' became our research code for citing our individual notes from this resource.

Then it was time to start researching! I modeled for students how I used the first page number listed on my plan sheet for information on an owl's habitat. I scanned that page into the SMARTboard. I highlighted key words about an owl's habitat and then transferred those key words to my "owl's habitat" notes sheet.

I modeled for students how to record key ideas only, not whole sentences. You'll notice 'R1' appears after each note to indicate I got my notes from my first resource: a non-fiction book.

I modeled one more time using a different page that had information on the owl's defense mechanisms. I highlighted important information, then transferred the key ideas to my "owl's defense mechanisms" notes sheet.

Now that students had a model for what they were to do, it was time for them to try it themselves! Students opened up their planning sheets and went to each page on their planning sheets to find information on the habitat, diet, and defense mechanisms of their animals. This student is recording information on the habitat of the hummingbird.

Here is one student's notes sheet for that habitat of a lion. She wrote key words, not sentences, and she cited where she got her information from (as is indicated by 'R1' for Resource 1, which is her non-fiction book).

You will notice I color-coded my students' note sheets. Habitat notes are on pink, diet notes are on green, and defense mechanism notes are on blue. You may also have noticed that when I recorded my habitat notes on my own notes sheet on the SMARTboard, I used a red (pink) pen. I used a green pen to record diet notes, and I used a blue pen to record defense mechanism notes. This is just one small way to help students organize and store their information. Doing is research is tough, so whatever we can do to help ease and organize the process as they start this process is important!

At the end of two writer's workshop sessions, students were done recording the habitat, diet, and defense mechanism notes from their non-fiction books. You can see how this student checked off each page from his planning sheet as he read it for his research on hawks.
This is all the information the student gathered from his non-fiction book about the habitat, diet, and defense mechanisms of hawks.

Here's a close-up version of each notes sheet:

In our next research session, I introduced our next resource - an encyclopedia! It took us about two research periods to gather all our information from an encyclopedia. (Students who finished early worked on their own story for Writer's Workshop.)

I modeled for students how to cite their encyclopedia using the title, copyright year, volume number, and page numbers. I explained to students we would be using the citation code 'R2' on our notes sheets for information from their second resource - an encyclopedia.

I highlighted information on one of my encyclopedia pages that I had scanned onto the SMARTboard. Blue highlighting indicates information on the owl's defense mechanisms. Green highlighting indicates information on the owl's diet.

Below you can see how I added my new information from the encyclopedia (R2) to my defense mechanisms notes sheet using key words rather than whole sentences.

Then I added the information from the encyclopedia that had to do with the owl's diet to my diet notes sheet and used 'R2' to cite where I got my information from.

We got each of the kids an encyclopedia that started with the first letters of their animals, and they began reading and recording information about their animal's three subtopics (habitat, diet, and defense mechanisms).

Today I introduced our final resource - a website! Our website research will take us two days to complete.

I modeled for students how to go to the National Geographic Creature Feature site for kids. It has kid-friendly information, pictures, videos, and maps for kids to look at for a wide variety of animals. I did a search for owls on the site and found several kid-friendly pages and pictures of information on the snowy owl. First, I showed students how to cite a website using the website address and the date the site was visited.

Here I highlighted information having to do with the habitat of the snowy owl.

Then I took that information and added it to my owl's habitat notes sheet. I used 'R3' to cite that I got my information from my third resource - a website.

Then we went to the computer lab so students could try out the research process themselves using a website.

Here is a clip of some of our kids researching information from their Creature Feature websites on their specific animals. (*Note: We had a few kids whose animals were NOT featured on the National Geographic Creature Feature Website. For those students, we helped them find a different kid-friendly site to use!)

This student researched kangaroos. Here are her completed notes sheets after our week and a half of research using a non-fiction book, an encyclopedia, and a website.

See this next blog posting (Part 5) where students will be cutting their notes into strips to:
a.) Group common ideas
b.) Organize their ideas for the best flow


  1. Hi Ms. B:
    As usual... another wonderful and inspiring post.

    I LOVE the colored paper idea. Your students are so fortunate! I wish you would do a "webinar." I just know I would learn SO MUCH from you!!!!!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. Hey Kim -
    Oh gosh, now you're using words that make my heart race! A 'webinar' is a new term for me! Then again, I'm always up for a challenge. ;) I think I might need a webinar on how to do a webinar?! Do those exist?

  3. Hi Miss Bongers, I love doing these projects you make it really fun! :)


  4. Can't wait to use this next year to help my sanity and my kid's sanity when we do our research report....don't you just LOVE encyclopedia day?!? (enter a pinch of sarcasm here...)

  5. Ana, you are doing a great job with your research on polar bears! Glad you are enjoying it. :) See your pretty face on Monday, ok?

    Emily, this process really helps take things step by step. It's only taken me 9 years to truly fine-tune these lessons to get them to this point. And yes, I just LOVE encyclopedia day! ;)

  6. Thank you for always being so thorough in your posts. These posts also reflect how you are clearly thorough in your teaching as well. I have learned a lot from you from your blog. Thank you so much for each and every post.

    Fun in Room 4B

    1. Elizabeth - I'm glad you find them helpful! Thanks for such a warm comment!