Hi there friends,
As I am sure you have too, I have been thinking about the end of the year stretch and what that entails. Spring is one of my favorite seasons in teaching because you realize how far your kids have come since the beginning. They are just capable of so much more especially in their writing. As a result of this new skill set, we transition into more research projects in the spring. With that in mind, I’m sharing with you some tools and resources for teaching informational writing.
Research projects always seem to offer students a sense of independence and pride, which I absolutely love. Over the years I have studied a variety of research topics with my students such as the different habitats, inventions and inventors, and a plethora of animals including ocean animals, endangered animals, dinosaurs, and nocturnal creatures. (You can find links to several of my research projects at the end of this post!)
With all writing projects, I believe that organization is extremely important. Being organized helps students to complete work, reduces stress, helps to maintain focus, makes it easier to collaborate and all these positive components increase confidence.
We all know that one size does not fit all even when it comes to organization, therefore I always have a variety of graphic organizers ready for each lesson. There is such a wide range of writing abilities within our classrooms, so kids will clearly need different supports. My goal is that they create a writing piece that they feel confident in, and it hits the targets specific to the genre. If we focus on that as our goal, it doesn’t matter that each child’s path to success may look different. I am all about building confidence and with research, organization is key in achieving that.
Before the writing begins…
Specifically with animal research, when writing we go through each topic heading one at a time, but before we get our pencils out to write, we obviously must complete the research.
When we begin a research project, I always pass out the text resources to students. I have them relax around the room exploring their books and articles on their specific topic. This helps students to become better acquainted with their topic and it builds the excitement to research more.
The next time we meet, I gather students to go over the research project expectations including how and why we take efficient notes. I model taking notes on a specific header, for example, habitat. I will pass out my animal report information organizer note-taking sheets which are included in my Informational Writing Unit, and assign students to ONLY take notes on that specific header/topic for the first session so I can make sure students are taking their time, and not feeling pressured. This also allows for informal observations and assurance that students understand the procedures with confidence.
Research Tools for Teaching Informational Writing
Two things I use to help support successful research are detailed, printed note-taking materials that include all topic headers (which also make an excellent reference material when preparing rough drafts) and I pass out color-coded sticky notes assigned to each header for students to use as a visual when exploring the different text. (For example, pink sticky notes are for habitat facts.)
This year I decided to take the sticky note support a step further by creating printable research sticky notes with the different headings. I created sticky notes with simple headers and sticky notes with the headers and supporting questions. I am hoping with this detail in place that we can reach and support an even wider range of writers.
Why did I incorporate the sticky notes? It may seem like a lot of additional work, but in fact, they cut down on distractions, increasing focus and independence of your young researchers. At first, the excitement can be overwhelming, leaving students wanting to learn and share every fun fact they find. This is one way the sticky notes will support our writers. Students can simply place a specific note on a random fact, then focus back on the topic at hand without worrying they won’t be able to find that off-topic information later.
With this solid, organized foundation of research, students will be ready to start writing. This is when I utilize my informative genre graphic organizers and informational writing templates which help students to transfer and transform their notes into their own creative representations of their newly learned information.
As you read through this process you may be thinking this sounds like it would take a long time. Yes, it does take longer to go through this thorough process, but I would rather have 3 solid research projects completed than a dozen mediocre reports. When we guide our students through a process with support it will take longer, but the benefits are priceless. You will create creative, confident, and proud young writers.
Excited to get started with teaching informational writing?
I’m so excited for you to use these resources with your nuggets that I’m giving you my sticky note research tool for FREE!
Download your copy of these FREE research sticky notes today and check out these additional research report resources:
Or read more about my research projects in my previous blog post about Tide Pools & Ocean Animals.
Teaching writing is one of my passions and through my experiences and collaborations with other phenomenal educators I have gained confidence in supporting many different levels of writers. I am always happy to support other educators on this journey so please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions on how to support your writers.