Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Class 103 Research Projects Update

Mrs. Z. Class 103 teacher sent an update on the research projects that our first-graders have been working on this year.

Research in Class/SEM

I want to give you an update on class research projects. Many children have decided they want to do a project. I want to explain the rationale, what the product might look like and ask you for resources (books, etc) for your child. Not all children are doing one, nor do they have to. It is interest driven.

About SEM-

In some GT pull-out programs for older students, children research their interests and as they get toward High School, begin to pursue these interests in many ways including internships, mentorships, writing papers, etc. This type of exploration is called SEM and is a best practice used for enrichment.

Though the children in 103 are young they still can benefit and learn by pursuing their interests. Some skills that can be learned are: taking notes, organization, posing questions and finding answers, reading for a purpose, evaluating sources (Can they read it? Does it tell them what they need to know?) and hopefully finding a topic that may drive them to become experts in the field one day. These are just a few of the skills that can be learned and are used by adult researchers.

How We Are Approaching It-

Many of the children have decided they want to research a topic. Before I let them start they have to fill out an easy "research proposal" to see if this topic is a good fit. It can be anything they love. We are making time in class for each child to read about the topic, and take notes from books and the internet. Internet sites at school are screened/filtered by the board of education. Additionally, I check while the kids are working. Not all children are ready to do this, nor do they have to. Some children have formed their own groups and are taking notes together. This is a perfect way for children to get involved even if they are not quite ready to do their own project. At the end of their study or along the way they will produce a product. It might be a poster, brochure, model, book, game or whatever format they choose to do to share their work.

What To Expect-

During a study in an early grade, generally students immerse for a while in their topic and information. They then can begin to answer questions that were on their proposal or others that have come to light. Generally, when kids begin learning they will be a bit messy and disorganized but work improves over time. Celebrate all attempts at self-driven learning. If disorganized work comes home-be positive and encouraging. Feel free to help them at home but only if it is a good experience for you both. Encourage interests to the best of their ability, but not perfection. The learning environment must be safe and judgment free for them to explore and take academic risks.

What Can You Do-

Ask your child if they have chosen a topic and if you can bring in books to support it or any 1 on 1 research you have done together at home. Please don’t bring in anything to special, as little researchers can get messy. Additionally, kids can bring home work over the break but please make sure it returns. Work does not have to come back “finished” just continue working on it. Feel free to help them rewrite/organize. Individualized help is great!

Trouble-Shooting-

As this is an advanced project if a child finds themselves in a topic that is too hard/complex or just stops being interested, they will be allowed to drop it. Even if no project is completed, they still will have gained researching/reading skills. They will be encouraged to think about another topic. Hopefully this will not happen, and we will address it if/when it does.

If a topic “goes on forever” students will be encouraged to organize thoughts and share knowledge/create a product, and can go back to the topic and continue work until interest wanes.

We’ll see how this develops!

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