All third graders and up in our school create a research paper each year. One year students may write about famous people from their social studies text. The next year they write about topics from science. The school year is just too short not to cover multiple skills with the research project.
Sources and the Bibliography
We have the best school librarian. She takes on the task of helping the students with their research. Students must use a minimum of three references: a book, an encyclopedia, and a website.
During library time, students find one informational textbook and one encyclopedia. This might be a World Book, Britiannica, or specialized encyclopedia such as Children’s Animal Encyclopedia. Students also go to the computer lab to find online information. Students write a simple bibliography following the guide on page 1 of the handout.
Below is the note-taking chart. For third and fourth graders, I like to provide a structured outline for note-taking. Older students use a similar chart without the guiding questions. They start by writing questions they want to find the answers to.
On the bibliography page, each source is numbered. As students begin looking for answers, they must write the number that corresponds to their source where the information is found in a small box on the note-taking page. This is a big help when students must go back to a source to verify information or if time does not allow for them to finish answering a question in one sitting.
Once students answer all questions on the note-taking chart, they type the notes into sentence and paragraph form. At this link, you will find 15 student reports from this project.
Once all reports were typed, we invited parents to school for a living museum/zoo program. Students dressed in animal costumes and stood in front of backdrops that represented the biome of their animals. They presented small reports which were planned in advance. They also answered questions as parents walked through the living exhibit.
Afterwards everyone ate refreshments that the students helped prepare. We took Pop-Tarts and cut them using biscuit cutters to look like tickets to the zoo. Icing was used to write “Admit One.” These were a big hit with both the parents and students.
I created webpages with photos and reports. You can see them here. On the website, I also added a page to show our life cycle projects.