Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing on Wednesday: Animal Research Reports

My First grade ELL students are done with their animal research projects. 
*Insert big cheer here*
My students love this unit. Part of it is because they are pretty tired of writing about themselves, and other reasons may include because they love our nonfiction animal books. Regardless, there is a fun time had by all.
I have written about our animal research reports in the past, and it is one of my most popular posts. However, it has been several years and I've tweaked our process a little bit, so I wanted to take some time to update and share all the little changes we have made.

First things we do is preview some NonFiction animal books.
I use the Capstone Pebble Go series because, as I said several years ago, 1. my school library has many of them AND, more importantly, 2. these books are very kid friendly. I check out more books than I have kids so that the kids have options. Inevitably many of the students will want the same book. I deal with this in 2 ways.
First, I have students preview several books with a "Book Pass" activity.
Basically students sit in a circle and look through a book for 1 minute. After that minute they pass the book to the left and preview the next book for 1 minute. This continues for about 5 minutes. The students won't preview ALL the books but they will look through several books before making a choice.
Next thing I do is lay out all the books and have students pick a first choice AND second choice. This way if I have several students that want the same book I am able to still give students a book they are interested in.
Once students have an animal they are ready to research we take a day to learn about the important text features of a nonfiction book. We lean about the table of contents, title headings, labels, captions, bold words, glossary, index and reference section. We look through our books and talk about how each book is different and may have some but not all of the components.
Next day we start our research using a graphic organizer. I actually updated these this year. I didn't change the format, just used some easier to read fonts. Then I decided to shade the section titles to make them easier to identify. Anyway I have all 3 available, you can decide which one you like best.
Original GO
Update GO #1
Update GO #2
We still fold our graphic organizer like a trifold brochure, so that our name shows on the outside. Then we place it in our book with our name showing out of the top. This makes it very easy to identify and pass out books at the start of each day.

The first day I model how to take notes from the book. I work in one section only, and show how to find information specific to that section. The following day, I model again, but then allow them to also find their notes independently. We start with one section a day for day one and two. This allows them to really concentrate on identifying information in their book. The third day I review how to take notes, but mostly let them research and write independently. After two days my students are working faster and I allow them to do more than one section a day. Side note: They are always allowed to go back and add to or edit information from sections already done.
After a few days of taking notes from our book, we move to taking notes from the internet. Another awesome feature of the PebbleGo books is their online site.
This site is very user and kid friendly. The tabs at the bottom are easy to navigate and the speaker button will read the text while highlight the words, which is a fabulous feature for my ELL/ESL students.
Of course their favorite part is the little animal video. My favorite part is the animal pictures ready to print and label.
 Once all that research is done we start writing out our reports. 
(Click on the image to download the paper.)
I follow the same pattern for these lessons that I do when I introduce taking notes. We start writing one section/page a lesson. The top two lines are for their heading, even though not every page will get a heading. So if "What the animal looks like" takes up two pages the first one will have the heading & the second one wont. will I make sure and stress that they do not illustrate until their writing is finished so that their words match their picture. Again that will take several days to complete. Here is what one looks like...
Once all that work is done we start to put the finishing touches to our report. We number our pages, & create a table of contents and references page. 
Click here to download the: Table of Contents, Citing References.
I make a cover page using the Comic Life program. Then I take them and bind them. Sounds like a lot of work, but it really only takes a day or two. Depending on how much writing time you get.
I always think they look amazing!
Once completed we celebrate by reading to other people in the building. This year we read to all of the office staff. I was really pleased with how much my students learned.

Before you go, just a reminder that there are still 2 days to enter my Shout Out giveaway.
Click on the image below to read about it and enter to win.
Happy Hump Day!


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