Sunday, February 1, 2009

Winter Wonderland and Third Grade Research

Back in December, Kevin Jarrett over at Welcome to NCS-Tech! wrote a post about research skills called On searching, web literacy, and the ubiquitous "animal report". I've been giving that topic thought since becoming a teacher seven years ago.

Personal Experience
My two sons are no better and no worse than the average student at our school in their research skills. We've given them a lot of attention at home to try and help them learn what they do not seem to understand from thei
r classroom lessons. In the computer class, we have completed mini projects and learned various search skills. I have come to the same conclusion as Kevin, online search skills really must be follow book based skills. I hope I paraphrased you correctly, Kevin.

Winter Wonderland January Project
I have had some trouble getting the January Winter Wonderland project off the ground in Kindergarten and first grade. I wasn't able to find a project I wanted to use
with Kindergarten and the first grade is working on Dance Mat Typing. I've really been working hard with the third grade, although it wouldn't be apparent from my student's wiki page.

The Penguin Glyph
I really liked the Penguin Glyph project. Amber Coggin put the files together. They are under the January heading on the activities page. We start using PowerPoint in the fourth grade. For the third grade, this glyph is a gr
eat introduction to the PowerPoint screen and the idea of glyphs in general. Her PDF file explains what the various colors represent (such as orange feet would mean a boy created the penguin).

I wanted to do more and I thought this would work well as a research project as a group activity over several classes. The big question was: How?

The Big Six

I did some research on teaching basic skills and came up with several Big Six resources. I found that for younger students they call it the Super Three. One of the most obvious points is to come up with a focused question to ask the students. I decided something simple would be to ask: How is a penguin different and similar to our state bird. We've been picking at the question a little every week.

First Focus: The Eastern Goldfinch
Our state bird is the Eastern Goldfinch. I found a n
ice printable sheet on the American Goldfinch on the Little Explorer's website. Before giving the student's the sheet, I asked some questions using the Promethean Activotes.

Without prior discussion: 1 child clicked A) Emperor Penguin, 6 children clicked B) Eastern Goldfinch, and 3 children clicked E) American Robin.

Two children chose B) Hair and eight children chose F) Tails.

Three children chose A) Seeds and seven children chose B) Nectar. We had an interesting discussion about what type of birds eat nectar and what type of beak shape they require.

One student chose A) in pine trees, two students chose B) in weedy grasslands, 1 child chose C) in a building, 4 students chose D) at the edge of a pond, and one student clicked E by mistake.

This question also prompted some interesting size discussions as one child chose A) four inches, one child chose B) twelve inches, 2 children chose C) four feet, and six children selected D) one-half inch.

Drawing in Kid Pix
Armed with these images and the discussion, I gave the students a printout from Enchanted Learning. It has a black and white outline of the American Goldfinch. I asked the students to do their best job to sketch the bird in Kid Pix. I projected some photographs on the screen from Flickr so the students could try to match the bird's coloring. The student's images are really turning out quite well.

Next Steps
In an upcoming post, I will talk about how we practiced reading for information while integrating the Activotes. We will also be using the Activotes to look at scanned images from a book about penguins and read to find information.

These are some good first steps to leading my students to find information in print in the third grade. Your thoughts and insights are welcome to help me extend the lesson.


  1. What an interesting way to extend the glyph. You always have the best ideas.

    I concentrated having the students find information in print about penguins and transferring it to the PowerPoint slide for both 2nd & 3rd grade. I limited the source material to some information available from San Diego Sea World.

    I also extended the PowerPoint portion somewhat too and taught them how to rotate images and use clip art and send it behind something else.

  2. It was good to extend the glyph idea. I really have never used PPT with 3rd grade, but I think it's going to be great starting every year with this lesson from now on. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Thanks for the extension ideas - our 3rd grade focuses on our state's symbols in SS and habitats in Science. With 2nd graders we begin with the glyph legend and make people-graphs to help with their understandings before they do their own in PPT. 2nd and 3rd learned to use the text box for including a correctly written caption.
    (It seems every year that capitals and punctuation need to be incorporated as often as possible.)

  4. JoNelle:
    Our fourth grade actually works on state symbols. I've been wanting to work on more research skills across all grade levels. When the Winter Wonderland penguin glyph came up, I decided to try to integrate some research into the project.

    Like I mentioned, I usually start PowerPoint in the fourth grade. This project gave me a reason to start the program earlier.

    I'd be interested in more information on your 2nd and 3rd grade PowerPoint lessons.