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Turn Your Students Into Expert Researchers

Turn Your Students Into Expert Researchers

Do you have a solid method for how to teach your students skills to conduct research projects? There are few things more important than having good research skills, especially these days! 

We have a world of information literally at our fingertips. We can Google just about anything. Heck, we don’t even need our fingers—just ask Alexa to look it up for you!

There are of course positives and negatives that come with the sort of access we all have in the 21st century. We have to teach our students to tell the difference between good information and bad information. They need to learn how to pick out the important details as they read about the subject they’re researching, without getting bogged down with less-than-necessary details. Students also have to be able to think critically about what they discover, presenting it to others in an organized manner. 

That’s a tall order, I know! But I believe you’re up for the challenge—today I’m sharing my process for teaching research skills. I hope it helps you approach this important task with all the tools you need for success! 

My teaching is hugely inspired by OCDE Project GLAD. If your district is looking for an AMAZING and transformative training, check them out. (Not paid to recommend them; I’m just a huge believer!)

Step One: Teach Students Research Skills With Categories on an Anchor Chart

I like to begin each research unit with an anchor chart to help students visualize and breakdown the essential question we’ll be exploring. 

Let’s work through an example of how I explicitly teach research skills in my classroom! In Benchmark Advance, Unit 5, our essential question was “What is the value of innovation,” so we used that as our starting point to research inventors. 

For this anchor chart, I drew a lightbulb in the center of the chart. Then I added in each of our four main ideas: Characteristics, Problem to be Solved, Impact, and Other Inventions. I used direct instruction to explicitly teach students what each of these main ideas encompasses. Then we talked about why each piece was important to the overall picture. 

Characteristics, Problem to be Solved, Impact, and Other Inventions Anchor Chart

Step Two: Model Research Skills By Examining a Text

After completing the anchor chart together, we dove into our text together. In this lesson, we read a non-fiction text about Thomas Edison. Again, I worked from a large anchor chart to help students visualize the information.

The goal of this step is to help students identify exactly what pieces of the text they need to focus on, hopefully helping them avoid less-than-relevant facts. 

As we read, I modeled the process for my students. What biographical information is important or notable? Name the problems Edison were seeking to solve? List the impacts Edison’s inventions had on our society and world? And think about other inventions did this one lead to? It’s pretty fun hearing students realize that without Thomas Edison, there would be no iPhone. 

Thomas Edison Anchor Chart

Step Three: Practice Research Skills in Small Groups

At this point, I have explicitly taught students what we should be looking for, and why those details are important. I’ve also modeled how to approach a text with those particular content categories in mind. 

Can you see how I’m building the scaffolding here? The students aren’t quite ready to do this on their own yet, so the next step is to work in small groups. 

At this point in the lesson, I broke my students into four separate small groups, with each one reading a different text about an inventor. The students began on their own, but I also made the rounds to work specifically with each group and help them as needed. 

When all the groups finished their research, they took turns sharing out loud with the class while I recorded on a master chart. You can see the result here: 

Master Chart

I’ve found that this method works very well at keeping students on track and focused on the right kind of information to pull, rather than grabbing random facts to fill up space on a worksheet. 

Step Four: Students Conduct Individual Research

After we’ve gone through the entire process in this way, from my explicit instruction, to modeling with the whole class, to small group practice, it’s time for the students to strike out on their own!

If you’ve put sufficient scaffolding in place, they should be able to conduct their research in an organized and thorough manner. I’m always so impressed with the final products, and they are always proud to show off all the things they’ve discovered! 

Planned For Me Bundles for Benchmark Advance

Are you ready to try this method out to teach research skills to your students? Save yourself a ton of time by grabbing one of my Planned for Me bundles. Each grade-level bundle has everything you need to plan all ten units of your Benchmark Advance curriculum, including anchor charts you can trace or print to use with your students as you build the first layer of your scaffold. 

The planning templates are done for you, but they’re also fully editable so you can make adjustments as you see fit! 

Third Grade, Unit 5, Week 1 Planning Template

Project-Based Learning Bundle

Ready to fill your teacher toolkit with all the project-based lessons you could possibly need? My PBL bundle includes ALL of my Benchmark Advance PBL, Research, and Writing units. You can adapt these to use in grades 2-5, so if you swap grades next year, this can travel with you!

PBL for Unit 7: Exploring My Community Research Newspaper Project

This bundle includes the following products: 

  • Unit 1: Improve the Community/School PBL
  • Unit 2: Historical Figures Trading Cards PBL
  • Unit 3: Google Slides Research Animal Report
  • Unit 4: The Three Little Pigs vs. Mr. A. Wolf Opinion Writing Unit
  • Unit 5: Design Your Own App PBL
  • Unit 7: Community Research Newspaper Project
  • Unit 8: My Ideal Vacation PBL (*connects best to NGSS 3rd grade)

For more tips on how to turn your students into expert researchers through engaging projects and activities, join our Facebook community

Questions or ideas to share? Please leave a comment on this blog post!

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