Today’s learners need to know how to ask and answer their own questions. They need to be independent thinkers and not always given questions provided by teachers. By stepping back and providing your students with tools to begin generating their own higher-order questions and then analyzing the researched information, our youngest learners will be well-prepared for their future. Keep reading to learn a few simple steps to get your students excited about new content and formulating their own questions throughout the research process.
Google-able vs. NonGoogle-able
Young students need to understand what a good research question looks like. I always introduce the difference by having a discussion about “Google-able” questions and “NonGoogle-able” questions. “Google-able” questions are simple questions that one search engine can answer in one quick step. “NonGoogle-able” questions take time and many resources to find the answer. I then show a short youtube video about a nonfiction topic (Galapagos turtles is always a big hit!). Students watch the video and write down as many questions as they can on post-it notes. Once students are finished, they sort and label their questions into “Googleable vs. Nongoogle-able.” Then, for Day 2, I partner my 3rd graders up and they choose a nonfiction book to read with their partners. As they read their book, they use PostIt Plus app to record questions while reading. This is such an amazing app because they can color code their questions right within the app and post-its don’t get lost. They stay organized on their ipads.
Analyzing the Answers to Generated Questions
Now that students understand how to generate good research questions, I step back and let them choose a topic of choice to research. This is when our Genius Hour starts. Students think about a passion that they have then think about what breaks their heart about that passion. For example, a student that loves football may have a heartbreak that players can get hurt playing football. Then, students will formulate questions to ask that will ultimately lead them to a creative project that solves the problem.
Students use the Bookmark feature in Safari to save reliable sources into a folder named Genius Hour. This will be useful when they need to cite their evidence in their final projects.
As students begin to find answers to their questions, I show them how to keep the information organized using Notes on their ipads. Within Notes they start a Folder and create categories for their research. For example, a student researching an animal, may have notes for Habitat, Diet, Life Span, etc. By creating separate notes, students learn how to analyze their learned information and to categorize it. These are all skills that students MUST be able to do to be prepared for their future.
I always tell students that the best research questions are answered by their own brain using the new learning they gained from researching. Once students have done the research, they then choose a way to present their learning to an authentic audience. Check out our Padlet from my latest Genius Hour class of 3rd graders for ideas on creation methods and research topics. https://padlet.com/kaitlyn_hileman/geniushour
The best part of the research process is sharing with an authentic audience! We invite parents, families, and school personnel to come in for our Genius Hour presentation days.