After one year as library media specialist and three years teaching English, I’ve learned some of the ins and outs of teaching research inside and beyond the English classroom.
1. Start them young
There are so many skills that students must synthesize to engage in successful research. Students need to locate reliable sources, evaluate the effectiveness of said reliable sources to answer a teacher- or student-driven research question, integrate the research from various sources in a way that makes sense for the audience, and properly cite the sources they’ve used while maintaining a specific format. For these reasons, I urge you to introduce students to research endeavors as early as possible. Last year, we introduced our fourth graders to Gale’s Kids InfoBits, allowing them to explore any topic of their choice. Starting our students off early will ensure they are building the difficult research skills over time, thus improving their confidence in the process each year of exposure.
2. Encourage collaboration and communication
In general, students find comfort in tackling difficult assignments in small groups. As research tasks fall into the third and fourth depth of knowledge levels, students will go into the challenging tasks with more confidence if they’re working in a group. As many of our schools transition to a 1:1 model for technology, it becomes easier and easier to collaborate on various school projects, research included. In many classes across the curriculum, our students are using shared Google Documents to collaborate in real time on or off campus as they conduct, integrate, and revise research projects. If the research task concludes with a presentation, our students collaborate using a shared Google Slides presentation to prepare to share their findings with their peers or a larger audience.