Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Having fun while learning research skills in 4th grade

Frankly learning research skills isn't at the top of most students' list of fun activities. However, in this digital age there is no question that it is a must! 4th graders recently completed their Mystery Square projects. This activity immersed them in print and digital resources, synthesizing what they learned into something new, reinforcing previous paraphrasing practice, and giving them honest feedback from peers!

First students selected a country by choosing a popsicle stick from a jar. This introduced suspense but let me exercise a bit of control (I excluded countries that might be too obscure, as well as ones that many students have a lot of personal familiarity with)!

Next, they practiced their nonfiction comprehension skills by locating and paraphrasing facts about their country from the Enchantment of the World series and the CultureGrams database.
They reflected on all they'd learned and answered the following questions:

1. What is one important thing that you think everyone should know about your country?

2. What is one thing you admire about your country that we in America could learn from?

The answers to these questions were thoughtful and fascinating! For example, one student wrote about Haiti, "This country has suffered from poverty, but even through tough times they still managed to push through," and "The kids in this country have to help their parents to survive and I think kids in America should help their parents more."

The next step was creating their mystery squares with their four clues they thought were best on the outside flaps. Here's one for France: 

In the middle of the square they put their country's flag. Here is Ethiopia: 

We recorded each student reading out their clues and our last class session was devoted to a lively guessing game. They watched the videos, wrote their guesses on a mini whiteboard, and then waited with bated breath to see if they were right!

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