How Shared Research Can Inspire Your Students

Organizing shared research projects can be a daunting
endeavor for teachers. The purpose of shared research is to engage students in
rigorous, complex text while  promoting
discussion and collaboration. Presenting informational text within a unit
of  study helps students explore topics
in depth as well as strengthens understanding. I found that students enjoyed
become “experts” on topics and were much more motivated to conduct research in
a group vs. individually.
My second grade students absolutely loved our penguin shared
research project!  It was created to
complement the HMH Journeys basal text, Penguin Chick by Betty Tatham.  I was amazed to see how interested and
engaged my students were throughout the entire unit. Their curiosity and collaboration
was priceless! I used the following 6 tried-and-true tips to make this a successful
shared research study:
1. Find engaging, yet challenging resources: I provided a
variety of penguin informational text sources including books, printouts,
poems, and magazine articles. The sources provided were at a variety of
levels–most were at students’ instructional level, but I also included more
challenging text to increase stamina and push students to read complex text.
I’ve found that when students read high-interest text, they are motivated to
tackle difficult text, even if it is slightly above their level.  This National Geographic Kids: Penguins book
by Anne Schreiber and Penguins! by Gail Gibbons are a few of the high-quality,
authentic text sources we used during the study.

2. Create shared research groups: Shared research is an
ideal time for heterogeneous grouping because students are combining their
background knowledge and skill sets and learning from each other to build a
shared understanding of the material. I organized students into groups of 4-5
and allowed them to choice their specific research topic (i.e., diet, anatomy,
etc.). I wrote students’ research roles on the board and gave them each a
research role headband for easy organization. In order to promote productive
collaboration, we created a list of behavioral expectations so that everyone
knew the expected requirements of shared research.

3. Activate background knowledge: I used Really Good Stuff’s
O.W.L. (Observe, Wonder, Link) graphic organizer to activate students’
background knowledge.  In groups,
students brainstormed what they’ve observed about penguins, using knowledge
gained from reading the basal text, Penguin Chick. They recorded this
information on the O (Observe) column of the O.W.L. graphic organizer.
 Next, we discussed
the importance of asking questions prior to reading to guide research. Students
then wrote questions on Post-It notes and sorted them into the following
categories: anatomy, diet, habitat, locomotion, life cycle, and predators.
After sorting, they stuck their Post-Its onto the W (Wonder) column of the
O.W.L graphic organizer.

4. Read, write, discuss:
Reading, writing, and discussion are the heart of shared research
projects.  Students should read to find answers,
share these answers in a written format, and discuss new learning.  In our penguin study, students read to find
answers to their questions, summarized their answers and cited textual evidence
on the L (Link) column of the O.W.L graphic organizer.  Students worked collaboratively to turn their
new learning into complete paragraphs about each research sub-topic. They wrote
them on lined paper, edited and then published using Sharpie markers.

5. Incorporate art: Shared research is the perfect opportunity
to incorporate art into the classroom. Written responses don’t have to be
limited to reports, they can include murals, posters, poems, or dioramas. My
students chose to make murals of their assigned penguin. They used photographs
to draw the penguins’ anatomy, diet, habitat, predators, and babies and then
used chalk and paint to bring the penguins to life. As a finishing touch, students
placed their published paragraphs on the murals.

6. Share success: As a culmination, invite parents or other
classes to come listen to students share their research projects. My class loved
sharing and listening to each penguin report as they truly were penguin
experts. Many asked questions and provided feedback. Some even took notes!
After students shared, we discussed and charted the similarities and differences
of the penguins on a Venn diagram, synthesizing our learning.  I was impressed with the depth of knowledge
each group gained from this project. They were highly engaged and learned
excellent research skills. Many said this was their favorite project (even
topping our themed cooking projects–that says a lot!).
I’d like to thank Rachel Lynette for the opportunity to present
my shared research tips on her blog!Do you have a shared research tip? I’d
love to hear it!

About the Author:
Jessica Murphy is a second-grade teacher, reading interventionist,
and co-founder of Astute Hoot: Tools for the Wise Teacher.  Along with Jennifer Zoglman, a special educator,
and Tina Rataj-Berard, a graphic designer, she has created a dynamic cast of reading
and math strategy animals. The strategy animals made their way into a group of targeted
multi-sensory educational tools that have contributed to the creation of proficient
readers and mathematicians in classrooms across the country! Check out their
Teachers Pay Teachers store and follow their blog: to see how
they awaken the joy of learning in all students. 
If you are interested in purchasing some products that help
students learn critical reading and math strategies, consider downloading SeeWhat The Hoot’s About, a FREE sample file of tools and resources guaranteed to
spark enthusiasm in your classroom.
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