Famous Person Research Project RLA
Day 1

The research project began with students thinking about someone they would like to learn about. The students were told they would be learning about biographies and what type of information we could learn from them. I made a list of the person each child would be interested in researching (some had several). After class, I did some preliminary research on what biographies we had in the library. I wanted the students to focus on reading a biography for reading.

Day 2
We began the day by going over the research packet in class. We discussed what we may want to learn about that person and the difference between a big question (How did this person change the world?) and a small question (When were they born?) Research Packet

I told the students we would be going to the library to explore the biography section. We discussed how to find books on the shelves and where we might find the person we are researching. I asked the students to find a biography on the person they were interested in. If the student did not find a book for their person, we discussed other options. For example one student chose a baseball player Ryan Zimmerman, but we did not have a biography on him so he found another baseball player, David Ortiz. Other students were interested in a few people so they chose the one that had a biography. Another student wanted to study an explorer, but he didn’t know who, so he explored the shelves and found Lewis and Clark. All students were given the opportunity to explore the shelves and find someone they would be most interested in researching.
Before students began reading their book they were asked to fill out the first two pages of their research packet. They wrote the name of the person and at least three questions (one of them being a big question). Many students wrote down five questions. They wrote down the titles of the books they were using. I also gave them the name of the websites that would be helpful to them. I showed them how to locate them and then they wrote the name of the website on their paper.

Last, students had to determine how they would present their information: All About Book, Word Webs (Simple Minds/Kidspiration), Book Creator, Charts, Poster, Other.

When they finished filling out their research paper, then they could begin reading their book.

Day 3
Instead of independent reading time, students began reading their biographies for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes they were asked to begin recording information in the notes section of their research paper. Students were continually reminded to check in with their questions. I reminded them that the questions should be guiding the research, especially the big questions which will not be answered in one sentence. They will have to read a lot of information and synthesize and infer to find the answers to their big questions.

During this time I also conferred with individual students about how they would present the information and what was their plan for gathering information. I had three students that chose other. They wanted to do a research paper and we discussed their plan for the paper.

Day 4
Instead of independent reading time, students began reading their biographies for 15 minutes. Students have now had two days of reading their biography and will begin their online research. Students used the ipads to do their research on the following websites:

Day 5
Students go to the computer lab to do their research and begin working on their final projects. The final product choices are as follows: All About Books (2), Book Creator/iBook (2), Poster (2), Research Paper (3), Word Web Simple Minds (1), Word Web Kidspiration (2).

Two of the students that chose to do a research paper decided to do a word web on Kidspiration to help them get started on their research. They decided to include it in their final research paper. One student made a character word web for their person using adjectives. The other student included important details about their person that they would be including in their paper.

After helping students get started on their work, I concentrated on conferencing with groups that would be presenting in the same way. I conferenced with the All About Books group, Book Creator group, and Research Paper group separately, but all of the groups needed some help with organizing their ideas. We decided to use graphic organizers to help and organize our ideas and stay on track with our big questions.

With the poster group, we discussed ways in which to make the information stand out to the reader. For example one student wrote in red for all of the answers he found for his original research questions and the yellow questions were the big questions answered. We also discussed including color and pictures with our poster and how to find a good picture online. Once the Research Paper group heard that they could print off a few pictures relevant to their project, they wanted to find a picture for their cover.

Day 6 and 7
We created a rubric that we would use to form our final product. As a class we created a rubric using http://rubistar.4teachers.org/. What will we look for in our peers? What do we want to be evaluated on? The class decided to focus on enthusiasm, content, staying on topic, speaking clearly, and listening to others. We discussed what it means to be a good listener and how that was a part of the presentation process. These expectations were revisited during student conferences.

Students continue to work in the computer lab on their research on their final product. I continued to meet with students on a group basis and individual basis to make sure they were referring back to their original questions, to guide their research. Some students had 3-4 pages of notes, but when I asked them if they had found an answer to their questions, some had difficulty telling me. With these students I spent more time guiding them back to these questions.
Students who chose word webs found that they wanted to add more information and the word web was not sufficient. All of them adapted their project to include a poster and their web was a part of the poster. One student chose to do a mock interview with their famous person and the other two included timelines.
I found that instead of choosing one presentation option, many students enjoyed having the opportunity to include other styles with their final product.
Some student had some time to practice their presentation with a buddy and others worked until the lasts second.

Day 8 and 9
Before students presented their work I discussed how they would present and I wrote this information on the board. First they would present and think about the aspects of the rubric in their presentation. Then they would share their reflection. Third, they would ask for questions and comments. Last, students would receive applause.

I reminded the audience that listening was on the rubric and coming up with good questions lets the presenter know that you were interested in their work and would like to know more. We discussed what would be a good question to ask and how to respond to a question if you didn’t know the answer, “I’ll research that and get back to you.”

When the presentations began, I was pleasantly surprised by how attentive the audience was. The students eagerly asked questions and replied with appropriate responses. The audience was genuinely interested in the presentation. This could be due to the presentation being done by their peers or because they went through the same process with their research and could connect with the presenter. I heard many students ask “big questions”. How did she change the world? How did his research influence research today?
The question and answer section was much more valuable than I thought it was going to be. A few students had general facts about their famous person and their finished product looked very complete. However, some of those students had difficulty answering questions about anything beyond that from the audience. Others may not have had lots of information to display, but they confidently answered questions about their person. This step of the presentation process gave me a deeper understanding of the student’s comprehension on this project.

Day 10
We reflected as a class about the research project and the presentations. We discussed similarities and differences. People chose different types of presentations, but each student still showed their understanding of their famous person and answered their research questions.

A bulletin board was used to display their work. It was titled RLA Research…Ask an Expert. Students had the opportunity to go up in groups to review some of the presentations at the bulletin board. I have listed some examples of research and reflections below.

Bulletin Board
Book Creator 1
Book Creator 2
Simple Minds
Reflection 1
Reflection 2

For next time…
  • Include a technology section: How will you use technology?
  • Provide more information about how to choose an appropriate person...teacher modeling. (Katy Perry vs. Neil Armstrong) Which one is most appropriate? Which one will you learn the most from? Which one will have the most resources? Which one will inspire you to create big questions AND answer them?
  • Provide time for everyone to practice with a buddy.
  • During the question and answer the teacher could write down a question or two that the presenter couldn’t answer and then have them find the answer to share with that person. (Possibly on Day 10.)
  • It might be a good idea to add on interview a person for the research section.
  • Students could take one research book home with them to read for independent reading homework that night.
  • It might be helpful to share some information from the reflections from this year’s group with the next class. For example:
oChallenges: Answering the big question, organizing information,
and creating chapters.
oEnjoyed: Exploring websites, choosing who I would research,
finding pictures, designing my poster, and writing and reading.
oLearn: It looks easy, but it is hard, you have to concentrate hard or
you may not have many facts, it is fun and real, and instagrok is very
oGoal: Try to answer all of my research questions, to have more
information and chapters, challenge myself, and to concentrate