For Black History Month, we embarked on a mini-inquiry to research a famous person. With the support of our Teacher Librarian (TL), we started off with questioning. It proved very difﬁcult to illicit substantial Search and Find questions from my students, so we helped them out. The groups of three were given questions like Why is so-and-so famous? Who inspired so-and-so? What challenges did so-and-so face? Each student had two questions, one for each of the 3-column graphic organizer used, plus a column for Cool Facts.
Step 2: Gather and Organize
Through our TL and his school website, students were instructed to utilize only Britannica School Edition (a website where students can access information at different reading levels) and Kids Info Bits websites. We discussed that while searching for information to answer their questions, they could add other information to the Cool Facts column.
The students took a long time with this step and needed a great deal of scaffolding to infer correct answers. It has been about two weeks worth of gathering and some students are still not quite finished.
Step 3: Interpreting and Analyzing
This step has been done in tandem with Step 2, of course. I have mostly had individual conversations (recall triangulation of data) when appropriate about why information does or does not answer either of the questions from Step 1. I have explained to students that when they read a sentence, they need to ask themselves if the information answers one of their questions or not. If it does, copy and paste it into the graphic organizer. We talked about changing the words during continued conferences. If the information does not answer the question, then continue reading, one sentence at a time. Sometimes we had to just discern if the name brought up in a search actually matched to name of the famous person. Once again, a lot of scaffolding.
Step 4: Evaluating and Drawing Conclusions
This step is two-fold. First, students had to independently fill in a different graphic organizer based on their previous research. Secondly, the students will respond to the prompts Maria created in order to attempt to synthesize their learning. These prompts are: At first I thought.../ Now I've learned.../ One question I still have....
While the kids mastered the Show Me app with ease, the results of any deep learning were negligible. A couple of students managed to infer beyond the more common responses of, "At first I thought Will Smith was a movie star. Now I've learned that he is a rapper too. One question I still have is how old is he?"
Step 5: Communicating
The fun step...under the tutelage of our friendly, neighbourhood TL, the students created an iMovie! They were so excited. They could pretend to interview their person or just talk about the person. While iMovie proved challenging at first, practice refined the kids' skills with this app. Each student had to both experience videotaping and talking. We were fortunate to have small numbers and extra hands to take the small groups to different locations during filming.