6 Secrets to Successful Research with Kids

Research, the very word, can draw shudders from teachers and audible sighs from students. If you are one of those shuddering educators dreading that next research project, then you are truly going about research all wrong. Take it from this elementary school librarian! I have been an elementary educator for twenty years and a certified library media specialist for the last seven years. I am so pleased that Rachel has let me be your virtual librarian today on Minds in Bloom.

 

Are you trying to figure out how to make research enjoyable and maybe even fun (gasp!) for kids? Our guest blogger is a teacher-turned-librarian, and she's sharing six secrets to successful research with kids in this post. Click through to read more!
 
 
How about a few insider secrets to turns those sighs into high fives? I have six not-so-secret secrets. Be warned! I am NOT a purist in research theology! A TRUE research project follows certain steps, is written in a certain format, and is followed with a perfect bibliography. The ability to complete a TRUE research project independently should be a requirement for those career and college ready. But guess what? I work with kids, and some pretty little ones at that. I strive to make research fun and engaging! Wouldn’t you like to, as well? Well, here we go…

 

Are you trying to figure out how to make research enjoyable and maybe even fun (gasp!) for kids? Our guest blogger is a teacher-turned-librarian, and she's sharing six secrets to successful research with kids in this post. Click through to read more!

1) Your librarian should be your best resource. But, research is NOT just for the library.
Research is just a word used to describe the process of discovering new information, seeking answers, and studying a topic deeper. As an educator, you are ALREADY guiding your students to research. Every. Single. Day. Each time that a student learns a new fact, they have performed a baby step along the research journey. Often, I find that teachers place too much emphasis on the concept of research. They make it heavy. They turn it into a burden when, truly, research is happening a dozen times a day. Let your students know that each time you say the words, “Let’s look it up,” you are completing research. It’s just that easy!

 

Are you trying to figure out how to make research enjoyable and maybe even fun (gasp!) for kids? Our guest blogger is a teacher-turned-librarian, and she's sharing six secrets to successful research with kids in this post. Click through to read more!

2) You can easily teach inquiry-based research skills in short bursts of time.
Research projects do not need to be long, drawn out, or take days upon days to complete. For example, during a lesson, one of your kids asks an interesting question that you don’t quite know the answer to. Don’t say, “Let me get back to you on that.” Instead say, “Well, let’s take a second to research that.” Don’t just look up the answer and share it. Talk out loud. Explain the steps that you are taking. What resource are you using? What keyword did you choose? How did you know which page/website link to go to? Model it for them. There, now you have completed a shared research task. Won’t Common Core be happy?

 

Are you trying to figure out how to make research enjoyable and maybe even fun (gasp!) for kids? Our guest blogger is a teacher-turned-librarian, and she's sharing six secrets to successful research with kids in this post. Click through to read more!
3) I believe that it is our job to set our students up for success.
Research is hard work! I often compare it to a treasure hunt: You can do a whole lot of digging for just one gold nugget. BUT, when our kids are first trying out their research wings, we don’t want them to be weighed down and frustrated.

 

Scaffold the project. Don’t just tell your kiddos that they are going to research bats. Instead, prepare some graphic organizers that require them to research types of bats, their habitats, diet, and life cycle. These types of graphic organizers help to create a foundation for their future research skills. With time, students will adapt bits of your organizational methods as their own.

 

Provide strong resources. Treasure hunts are NEVER fun if you are digging in the wrong spot. They are simply too hard and too discouraging, and they will lead you to NEVER want to pick up another shovel. Don’t do that to your students. If they are researching bat habitats, then be sure that you lead them to a resource that will have great facts about habitats. There are still a great many research skills that are being met in reading, comprehending, and deciphering the text. There is nothing wrong with pointing them in the right direction. One of the best ways that I have found to support my students is to create clickable interactive PDF bibliographies. Here’s an example of one that I created for students working on animal research projects.

 

Are you trying to figure out how to make research enjoyable and maybe even fun (gasp!) for kids? Our guest blogger is a teacher-turned-librarian, and she's sharing six secrets to successful research with kids in this post. Click through to read more!
 
Simplify the citation process. ALL researchers should cite their sources, even if you are just a seven-year-old freckle-faced kid. In saying that, I firmly believe that there is not enough time in our day to force said seven-year-old to locate each and every aspect of the publication’s details. I have seen students who have NEVER even got to read the text because it took them so long to copy down the citation. This is a tedious task that is once again sending the wrong message to our fledgling researchers.

 

Kids just need to keep track of WHERE their facts come from. This process can easily be simplified in many ways. Take a peek at my FREE resource, It’s Elementary-Bibliography for the Youngest Students. You can learn even more about encouraging kids to record where their research facts are coming from, without burdening them!

 

Are you trying to figure out how to make research enjoyable and maybe even fun (gasp!) for kids? Our guest blogger is a teacher-turned-librarian, and she's sharing six secrets to successful research with kids in this post. Click through to read more!

4) Successful research inquiries begin with strong keywords!
Keywords are needed for utilizing printed table of contents and indexes AND for researching websites and databases. Students need to be able to look at a question and decide what the keywords are. I like to explain to kids that a keyword will UNLOCK the answer to their question, just like a key unlocks a door. This is a skill that needs lots and lots of practice.

 

Some people, even a few librarians, think that simple fact-finding questions lack depth and complexity. Well, sure they do, but there are still many benefits to finding the answer to, “Who was president in 1882?”, “How many legs does a spider have?”, and “What is the capital of Zimbabwe?” Those simple research questions require students to read for comprehension, identify the keyword, locate pertinent articles by using that keyword, scan for the keyword in the text, and seek out answers. Not bad for just a simple question, huh?

Each time that you are seeking text-based evidence with your kids, ask your students to identify the keyword. Use the word “keyword” in your daily discussions. Again. And again. I have found that the youngsters with a strong sense of keywords are the best researchers.

 
Are you trying to figure out how to make research enjoyable and maybe even fun (gasp!) for kids? Our guest blogger is a teacher-turned-librarian, and she's sharing six secrets to successful research with kids in this post. Click through to read more!
5) Create a final product that is fun and exciting.

 

It is possible. Really! You will be hard-pressed to get your kids excited about a research project if the end result is going to be a five-paragraph essay with an introduction, three detail paragraphs, and a conclusion. Just saying! How about shaking things up a bit?

Utilize task cards. Use apps to create a storyboard or a comic strip. Invite students to create an A to Z report. Have students pretend that they are a reporter breaking a news story. Record them. Create a file folder report or a research poster. How about an interactive report, similar to interactive notebooks? I have created state and country reports that utilize many interactive elements. Students are excited to conduct the research and even more excited to put together the project. One of my students said it best when he said, “I am definitely NOT letting my mom throw this away.”

Are you trying to figure out how to make research enjoyable and maybe even fun (gasp!) for kids? Our guest blogger is a teacher-turned-librarian, and she's sharing six secrets to successful research with kids in this post. Click through to read more!
6) Don’t get hung up on the word “research”!
Research reports shouldn’t be a “unit” that you teach; they should be an ongoing, daily process. Isn’t that our reality today? We have the internet in our hands, a fingertip away! We use it a hundred times a day. Show your kids. Model. Model. Model. And, most importantly, have fun with it. It really is possible.

The Library PatchSonya is an elementary school librarian who has a genuine passion for what she does. She loves books, kids, and technology! She is excited about all of the opportunities that threading these three things together brings each and every day. Sonya tends The Library Patch, where she can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers, Facebook, Pinterest, and a librarian-inspired blog.

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