In first grade we begin our first research project in January. During this time of year, we learn about penguins and polar bears in large group. This lends itself well to the 9 different research packets I have created on different Arctic animals.
With anything new that you introduce in the classroom, modeling what is expected is the key to success. So while we are working on this project, I am creating one as well. This year I have 23 students. I will break them up into 8 different groups. The 9th animal will be the animal that I model. I always do the polar bear since it is our current topic in whole group guided reading anyway.
For grouping purposes, there are so many ways you can do it. You can randomly group, ability group, or choose mixed levels for grouping. I have found the most success by mixing my levels but keeping my very lowest students in one group. They are just emerging and will need a lot of one on one or small group. I do not like to make the other students feel like they are responsible for guiding those children.
This project usually takes me a little over a week but I only devote 30 minutes a day to work on it. To do this, I usually shorten up my whole group guided reading instruction since this is a huge part of it anyway.
Each day we discuss one topic in whole group. For example, animal group is displayed below. The packets have text on each component, no need to look elsewhere. On this day, I would discuss what an animal group is. We would web different groups that we have in our schema, then I would read the page below on polar bears. Next, I would have the children help guide me to write about this portion in my research booklet.
After completing this modeling process, the children would then go in their small groups and begin. This is where I would begin working with my students who need a little more guidance. I would read to them and get them started. Periodically, I break to walk around the room and check on the other groups.
In these resources children learn about animal groups, habitat, body, adaptations, labeling, babies, and food. The children also have the opportunity at the end to do a little internet research andadd fun facts. I also have them print pictures to add in the end. On the last page, there is an "About the Author" page. They always love writing about themselves.
To end the unit, each group gets to make a craft of their animal. Then each group gets to present their animal to the other students.
I have to tell you that my students LOVE researching animals. I'm not sure if it is the independent learning time, group work or just the joy of learning about the animals.
It is so much fun that we do many more in the spring with the different animal groups and with rain forest animals. Stay tuned to see their finished work.
Here are the different animals we research!