Social Studies Research Projects by iW5Nyk

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									                                   PROFESSIONAL LEARNING TEAM REPORT
                                               2011-2012
PLT Title
Social Studies Research Projects

Blurb for PLT Conference Brochure
This presentation is about incorporating Common Core writing standards (2 and 8) with social studies
projects in the fourth grade. The research-based projects target the regions of the United States and
require students to gather, organize, and present information in several different formats to develop
and strengthen their informational writing skills.

Contact Information (Write * next to facilitator’s name.)
              Name                               School                     Grade Level or Subject
Melissa Crough                     Winn Brook                           Grade 4
Brie Graber                        Winn Brook                           Grade 4
Kristin Knutson*                   Winn Brook                           Grade 4
Erica Ross                         Winn Brook                           Grade 4

Guiding Theme
       Differentiated Instruction/RTI
       Integrated, Real-Life Experiences
       Acquisition of 21st Century Skills
       Deepening Teacher Content Knowledge
       Improving School Climate/Culture
       Teaching the “Whole Student”
       Other (explain) _______________________________________________________

Inquiry Question
How do we implement research based learning projects/activities in social studies in order to develop
and strengthen our students’ research and informational writing skills (Common Core Writings
standards 2 and 8)?

Process
In social studies in fourth grade we teach students about the 5 regions of the United States (northeast,
southeast, midwest, southwest, and west). At the beginning of the year, we chose 5 research-based
projects that required them to study these regions. As we began the projects, we realized how time-
consuming they ended up being, and therefore have not been able to complete all of them. So far this
year, we have completed two of the regions (northeast and southeast). For the northeast project,
students were required to research and take notes on land, economy, and culture from a variety of
sources. They demonstrated their learning in partnerships by creating posters that included pictures,
maps, facts, and paragraphs. The southeast project consisted of individual research on specific land,
culture, and economy topics. This research was more in depth. The end result was a brochure of the
region that included informational paragraphs, maps, pictures/captions, and facts about states, capitals,
and major cities. For each project, we created checklists and rubrics to help guide students and make
expectations for the product clear.
Findings
We found that students were in need of direct instruction on note-taking skills, including how to locate
information in a nonfiction resource, how to take notes from a paragraph of information, and how to
organize and synthesize their notes to compose an informational piece of writing. These skills are very
closely tied to the Common Core standards (2 and 8) for fourth grade. We had not done a project with
our students that required them to use these skills previously, and so we did not have a baseline to
compare our results with. In the two projects that we have completed, we found that our students
improved greatly in their ability to research and compose informational writing from the first to the
second project. In the northeast project, students needed a high level of modeling and worked together
with a partner. Their writing was brief. From having experienced the northeast project, we noticed that
students were better able to take notes for the southeast project. They did still benefit from a high level
of modeling and support throughout this project, but they were able to go more in depth and started
taking notes with more independence. Unfortunately, we have not been able to complete a third
project to see if they continue gaining more independence with these skills.

Recommendations / Next Steps
As we worked through the PLT process and introduced these projects to our students, we realized how
much modeling, explicit instruction, and support our students needed in order to complete the
assignments to the expectations that we laid out. When we use the projects and materials we have
gathered next year, we plan to start the project with a higher level of modeling and support at the
beginning so that students are able to gradually take on more responsibility. We also may start with a
simpler project and move on to the more complex projects as the students gain informational writing
skills.

								
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