Thursday, October 18, 2012

My take on the Big 6

This week I’m going to introduce my third graders to the Big 6 Research Model. In graduate school, for my LMS classes, they really promoted this as the perfect way to help kids learn how to research a topic, so last year, I made a full out attempt to teach my 5th graders to use it for their Social Studies Fair.  I did a PowerPoint presentation and developed some graphic organizers based on examples I had seen.  And, they had no idea what I was talking about.
I tried the model again with my STLP students a few weeks later as a way to help guide them in developing a technology project to do for our regional completion, and it worked!  Of course, it took one of my 5th grade members to explain to me that it worked that time because I walked them through each step instead of just zipping through the directions for a social studies project they were mostly working on by themselves.  It made sense – they needed me to model for them how to use the materials and the research model.  Modeling is just good teaching practice, and I failed because I tried to rush a concept that even college students struggle with.
This year, my plan is to model for the kids – over a number of weeks – how to conduct research with one topic so that we can work through it together.  I browsed through our most recent magazines and settled on studying sloth bears thanks to a recent Ranger Rick article.
This is what the organizer looks like
For my three 3rd grade classes, I plan to introduce the Big 6 by introducing all 6 steps – then walking the students through each step using a Big 6 Planning Guide.  Originally, I found an example similiar on the Big 6 research site, and I my original link to that handout no longer work. I broke the planning guide down this year so that we would focus on steps 1-4 first.  I made it through steps 1 and 2 today with my first third grade class.
For Step 1: Task Definition, I explained to students that we’re going to study sloth bears and then let them brainstorm some questions that they have about sloth bears.  My plan for each of the classes is to help them out if they seem stuck and suggest maybe we need to know where they live, what they look like etc.  For my first class I didn’t have to guide them at all. 
They were quick to identify those questions and many more.  They are curious to know how fast a sloth bear can run – because sloths are slow, but bears are fast.  I thought that was a particularly good observation.  They also want to know what “family” the sloth bear is in – is it closer to a sloth or a bear? We ended up writing down about 6 quality questions.
In Step 2: Information Seeking Strategies My plan is to help the kids to use the graphic organizer to identify resources they could use to find their information – I’ll help guide them to write down things like magazine articles, websites, and encyclopedias.  This will also give me an opportunity to briefly talk about choosing websites.  Students should avoid Wikipedia and use sites that are sponsored by zoos, like San Diego and the National Zoo or National Geographic.
The kids in my first class did a great job of identifying every search engine there is, which helped me to see that we would need to do a future lesson on search engines vs. sources of information.  In the meantime, I briefly explained that a search engine was something we can use to find sources.  One of the kids quickly made the connection that Scholastic’s site might have some information, which I thought was a good connection. Someone also mentioned Wikipedia, which gave me the quick opportunity to tell students that they shouldn’t use Wikipedia for school work – although it is something fun to explore.  I’ll have to do a lesson later about wikis so that students can understand the nature of wiki and why we should use them to share information, but maybe not as a source in a formal essay.
Step 3: Access Information   students will use the graphic organizer to help give them ideas for where to access information.  Then they will collect sources they need – info from websites, magazines, books etc.  This is going to be a bit challenging because we only have five computers that could be used for accessing websites, and we’ll have to dive into encyclopedias to find books – but I want to them to get practice in accessing different sources.  I’m a little nervous about how this will work out – but I think it’s essential for them to run into some roadblocks, so that they can gain that experience in overcoming frustration.
Step 4: Use of Information is when students work through their reading, looking for information that helps to answer those research questions they came up with in Step 1.  I have students use a research organizer for this step to record their notes.  During this step I will briefly talk about how to use text features like -subheadings, index, table of contents, bold words- to help locate information efficiently.  We will also talk about the importance of recording where we are getting information from.  Basics like author, titles, page numbers, web site names all are important things to look for so that we can give credit to the source when we actually create our project
Step 5: Synthesis  is where students take their notes from all the different sources they have used and decide how to present the information.  I’m going to let students decide if they want to create a Cube or a poster – or another appropriate project type of choice.
Step 6: Evaluation In this step, students will evaluate their own work and decide if they’ve done a good job.  On the complete Big 6 organizer, I have a few questions students can answer to determine if they’ve done a good job. This will also be a good time for us to have a discussion about what good work looks like.
I’m pretty excited to finish up the first week of lessons with the rest of the third graders, and I’m hoping as the weeks progress, I can give the kids enough support to understand the process.
How do you teach research skills?  Do you have any suggestions for getting through steps 3-6?


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  2. This is my first year as a LMS, and I am trying to implement the Big6. I have been looking for a template for students to follow, and I love yours! Would you be willing to share? Thanks in advance!