American Symbol Research in Kindergarten

Students in 2 Kindergarten classes have been hard at work researching American symbols as part of their social studies standards. Doing research projects with the youngest learners in our school doesn’t look like it does in the upper grades. We think about what some of the biggest barriers might be for our young creators and put pieces in places to support students in getting over those barriers.

First, students chose one of four American symbols to research: American flag, statue of liberty, liberty bell, and bald eagle.  In the library, we introduced students to a graphic organizer for collecting 3 facts about their chosen symbol. I learned from another Kindergarten teacher a few years ago during research to set an expectation that allows all students to succeed or exceed during the first research session. We asked students to have a goal of writing at least one fact during the first work session, but if they still had time, they should keep going.

research 1

Students used Capstone’s PebbleGo for their research. We love this database for many reasons but mostly because it breaks information down into manageable pieces and reads the text in a human voice for students. I modeled for students how to listen to a portion of the text and then think about what they had learned by listening. Then, we talked about what we would write on our organizer. This modeling was done with a different American symbol than the one students were researching.

At tables, I setup computers for students to use in pairs. We chose pairs because it gave students one more source of support as they worked. Also at each table, we tried to place an adult for support. The teacher, classroom paraprofessional, and me all worked at tables. If a parent volunteer or student teacher was available, they stayed at the 4th table. Otherwise, the adults took turns checking between tables.  We found that we had to continue modeling for students how to listen, ponder, and then write rather than just copying a sentence off the screen. However, some students still chose a sentence to copy.  All students left with at least one fact but many left with 3 or more.

research 2

After this initial work session, students continued their research in centers in the classroom.  Then, they returned to the library for another work session in small groups. Each group came for 15-20 minutes. We did a short tinkering session with Chatterpix Kids to see how you can take a picture of something, draw a mouth on it, and then record that picture talking. Ahead of time, I chose creative commons images of the symbols for kids to use for their pictures. Rather than having every student create their own Chatterpix, each group created one Chatterpix video with the iPads. Each student chose one fact from their research to read.

Before recording, students chose their fact. We decided the order students would read and practiced a few times. Students helped take the picture of the symbol and draw the mouth. Then, we pressed record and passed the iPad to record. If we needed to record a few times, we did. Then, we uploaded our videos to Youtube and created a playlist to share with the class, families, and you.  I hope you will take a moment to listen to their work.

I love building foundations of research in our early grades and seeing where these students end up by the time they are in 5th grade. We have a lot of work to do, but we celebrate the work of these Kindergarten students and what they have created.

Ms. Lauren’s American Symbols:

Ms. Boyle’s American Symbols:

Kindergarten Researchers in Action

Planet Research (4)Ms. Kelly Hocking’s Kindergarten class is hard at work again.  They were so excited by what they discovered using the Storykit app, that they decided to continue their work by making their own nonfiction book.  Their last adventure was about creating their own versions of folktales.

You can read and listen to their folktales online:

Ms. Kelly’s class has been very curious about space, so they decided as a class that they would work on creating informational books about the planets and solar system.  Ms. Kelly put the students into groups of 2-3 and each group chose a planet or part of the solar system to research.

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In the library, I pulled our books about space as well as checked out some books from the public library.  I also setup 2 computer areas.  One area was focused on PebbleGo and the other area focused on TrueFlix.  Even though the content of TrueFlix is written for older students, I felt like the read aloud function would support Kindergarten researchers.

Planet Research (3)

In class, students filled out a KWL chart to bring to the library.  When they came to the library with their questions, Ms. Kelly and I did a quick intro to the 3 areas available to them.  I loved how Ms. Kelly set a realistic goal for students in this big venture.  She said, “I want you to have at least one fact written down before you leave today”.  Of course, most groups wrote more than 1 fact, but every group left the library with a successful experience of meeting their expected goal.  To support students in their research, Ms. Kelly, a parent volunteer, and I rotated among the groups to help students with navigating the information in front of them.  Students continued this research for the next week in class.

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Next, the students came back to the library to work on prep for their book production.  Their KWL charts were filled with facts that they had discovered.  Ms. Kelly even shared that some groups had conflicting information about the order of the planets, so they had done some fact checking as a class before they came.  During this 2nd library session, we started in the floor again to establish our expectations for the day.  Every group had small squares of white paper, a long sheet of lined paper with room for illustrations, and a pencil.

Planet Research (9)

The task was to sort through the KWL chart and identify the facts that would go into the finished book.  One fact was written onto each piece of white paper.  The whole group worked on this part.  Ms. Kelly, the paraprofessional, and I circulated among the groups to assist with reading the KWL charts, correcting spelling, and searching for additional facts if needed.

Once 4-5 facts were identified, students sequenced the facts into an order that made sense.  Again, the adults helped students read aloud the facts that they identified and facilitated sorting the facts into different orders until a final order was chosen.  Then, the adults taped the papers to the larger lined paper.

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If students had time, they thought about what they could use in the school to photograph for each fact on the sheet.  They made notes or drew a picture to remind themselves what they talked about.  Ms. Kelly ad I encouraged students to stretch their brains to think about what they could creatively use to take a picture.  One group had a fact about the crust of their planet.  They decided they would take a picture of a piece of pizza in the cafeteria and draw an arrow to the crust.

Students will continue this process in class throughout this week.  Next week, they are checking out iPads to photograph things around the school as well as type their text into Storykit and publish their own ebooks.  I can’t wait to see how their work turns out.  I will most likely push into their class at some point next week to help, or they may schedule a time to come work with me again in the library as they finish their books.

Projects like this show me that it is completely possible for our youngest students to create amazing work that is based in real facts.  They can explore technology that no other class has attempted.  Some of the key factors in a successful project are plenty of time, realistic expectations, adult and peer support, and lots of encouragement.  I love how Ms. Kelly doesn’t rush a project of this size.  She understands that for quality work to be produced, we must give students the space, the support, and the time to make the work happen.