Tips and Ideas for Research Projects in the Classroom

Research projects for kids are easy and fun. Elementary teachers who need templates and printables for their lesson plans this post by Clutter-Free Classroom will help. It includes animal research, country research and biography project ideas for kids.

Research projects allow students to become thoroughly informed about an engaging topic. They encompass a lot of different skills and can be integrated into any subject area. Best of all they prepare students for real-life learning by teaching them how to gather information. The benefits don't end there. There are many other reasons to make them a part of your classroom including the following:



TIME MANAGEMENT
Research projects provide opportunities to practice time management skills. This takes time. The more guided practice students are given, the better they become at knowing how to pace themselves.


EXPLORATION OF INTERESTS
More and more often students are told what to read and what to learn. Research projects give them some choice. Choosing what to learn about makes practicing those important reading and writing skills so much more enjoyable which results in increased learning.


REPLICATES THE REAL WORLD
Students are not going to be students forever. As adults we are not handed passages on a subject, told to read them and then answer questions. We seek information based on our interests or our need to know something. Making independent research a regular activity in your classroom sets the foundation for real-world learning.


MAKES ENRICHMENT EASY FOR A TEACHER
It's extremely challenging to meet the individual needs of every learner in your classroom. Having ongoing research projects is an easy way to consistently provide valuable learning opportunities to the children who quickly complete other class assignments and demonstrate a need for enrichment.



CREATE A RESEARCH STATION IN YOUR CLASSROOM
Set up an area in your classroom where students can easily access what they need to get started on an independent research project. This may include highlighters, graphic organizers for brainstorming ideas, and some books that provide inspiration. For example, if you were to offer an Animal Research Project you may want to put out some books that show a lot of different animals with a brief summary about each. This is a great way for your students to initially become engaged and interested in learning more.
Research projects for kids are easy and fun. Elementary teachers who need templates and printables for their lesson plans this post by Clutter-Free Classroom will help. It includes animal research, country research and biography project ideas for kids.

PROVIDE TIME FOR ALL STUDENTS TO RESEARCH
One of my favorite things about independent research projects is that the students ALWAYS have something to work on. The projects completely remove the problem of “I’m done...What do I do now?” This is great for your more advanced students and for the fast finishers. However, you do want to make sure to also build some time into your schedule to allow ALL students to enjoy learning about a topic of choice.


The easiest way to do this is to take a cross-curricular approach and integrate an independent project into your daily schedule. Let’s look at a biography research project focused on learning more about the life of an individual. You can have your students research people who have made contributions to science or who have impacted history in social studies. In math they could create a timeline of the person’s life.


Research projects for kids are easy and fun. Elementary teachers who need templates and printables for their lesson plans this post by Clutter-Free Classroom will help. It includes animal research, country research and biography project ideas for kids.


ENCOURAGE KIDS TO COLLABORATE
I have found that it is more beneficial for research projects to be completed individually. This makes it easier for a student to work on his project at home or when free time arises in class. Group projects require a lot of skills that really should be taught and practiced with supervision. However, there are ways students can collaborate even when completing projects independently.
  • Let students who are working on similar topics work in groups so they can learn from each other.
  • Have students interview each other about their topics. By sharing what they have learned and having their peers ask them questions, the children are able to dive deeper into their research and expand their learning. This also may help students become interested in more topics when they learn about them from classmates.

Research projects for kids are easy and fun. Elementary teachers who need templates and printables for their lesson plans this post by Clutter-Free Classroom will help. It includes animal research, country research and biography project ideas for kids.


SHOWCASING KNOWLEDGE CREATIVELY
After picking a topic, conducting research, and taking notes, your students should be little experts on the person, animal or thing they researched. Strive to find creative ways to show it off. I always ended each school year with animal research projects.


There have been years when I let the kids pick any animal at all. Other times I have let them pick from within a category. Once I transformed my classroom using a beach theme and had the students research ocean animals. Another year I went with a Camping Theme and the students each researched a woodland creature. We displayed these at our end of year open house. In addition to the activities in our animal research packets, I encouraged each student to come up with a creative project to complement their work.
  • Paintings of the animal
  • 3D models made from Model Magic
  • Dioramas of the animal’s habitat
  • A slide show
  • A photo collage
Research projects for kids are easy and fun. Elementary teachers who need templates and printables for their lesson plans this post by Clutter-Free Classroom will help. It includes animal research, country research and biography project ideas for kids.





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3 Tips to Increase Engagement in Math


How do I get kids excited about math?

That’s a question I hear a lot from upper elementary teachers who are having to compete against science classes with cool experiments and class animals, or language arts classes where kids are getting to read their favorite chapter books. Math teachers who love what they do know that the concepts they teach are important, fascinating, and fun, but it’s hard getting through to kids who’ve already decided that they “hate math,” “aren’t good at math,” or think “math is boring.” It’s all a question of student engagement.

                             


What is Engagement?

Engagement gets thrown around a lot. Is an engaged kid just a kid who’s there, and not just a body in a chair? A recent report from the Institute of Education Sciences REL Southeast Lab tries to answer this question, and it’s actually more complicated than you might think.

The report describes three different kinds of engagement: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive.

  • “Behavioral engagement draws on the idea of participation and includes involvement in academic, social, or extracurricular activities; it is crucial for achieving positive academic outcomes.” (IES 2)
  • “Emotional engagement focuses on the extent of positive (and negative) reactions to teachers, classmates, academics, and school. Positive emotional engagement is presumed to create student ties to the institution and influence students’ willingness to work.” (IES 2) 
  • “Cognitive engagement is defined as the student’s level of investment in learning; it includes being thoughtful and purposeful in the approach to school tasks and being willing to exert the effort necessary to comprehend complex ides or master difficult skills.” (IES 2)

But what does this mean for you?

You’re just trying to reach your students and keep them plugged in. Thankfully, engagement isn’t complicated, and you’re probably doing a lot to encourage it already.

Put simply, behavioral engagement means making kids feel like their participation matters. Emotional engagement means making kids feel emotionally invested in what they’re learning and connecting it to their lives. Cognitive engagement means taking kids from bored spectator to interested investigator. The good news is, getting engagement on all three levels is absolutely possible!


Tips to Increase Engagement in Math

Here are some strategies that can help foster behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement in upper elementary students:


Tip #1: Make partner and group work into a game

There’s nothing like a little competition to get kids engaged. Kids who don’t have a strong interest in math can still be competitive. Having a team (complete with team names) to belong to or a partner to play against with a running score count can keep kids invested in coming back to class, especially if there are attendance issues. 

Kids will naturally gravitate towards what they can do in a group, rather than focusing on what they can't do when they're alone.  Partner games can also be an opportunity to pair kids with similar abilities but slightly different strengths.  That way, kids can model their thought processes to one another.



ready-set-play-game1-mr-elementary-math



This is one of the reasons I created Ready-Set-Play Math Games. All of the games in each pack allow students to work with partners or groups which is awesome for math centers. The benefit to these games are that there are 10 different topics for each grade level that are nicely aligned to the standards.


Tip #2: Don’t underestimate the power of word problems and stories

When someone says “word problems,” you can count on a few eye rolls. Bad word problems with confusing situations and absolutely no relate-ability get laughs on social media on a regular basis. But don’t just write off word problems or the value of narrative when teaching math concepts. When done correctly, a story creates a connection between real life and mathematical concepts. 

If you’re like me, you probably find yourself using the same names for problems. I found myself saying things like, “Mark’s house is rectangular prism,” or “Mark has three-eighths of a pie.” Since I noticed Mark popping up a lot, I decided to be deliberate about his story to get kids involved, and they love it! 

At the beginning of the year, try creating a few characters with some backstory. Use them as you teach new mathematical concepts and build on old ones. Create their job, their family, their hometown—let kids really get into it with words and pictures. Give their personalities a chance to shine as kids own the math they’re learning! Click here to discover a free problem solving template that you can easily use to help with word problems.





Tip #3: Never miss the opportunity for a hands-on moment

I can’t overstate the importance of getting hands-on when dealing with shapes and fractions. Our brains like to get hands-on! Seeing, feeling, touching, separating, grouping, measuring—all of these are ways that kids can physically interact with math. This stimulates part of our intelligence that’s crucial to math and other skills, too: spatial intelligence.

Getting hands-on usually involves a sense of play. Attribute shapes, base ten blocks, two-color counters, and fraction tiles are all elements of fun. Kids who are bored by worksheets will sing a different tune when they get to build and create. Connecting to kids intellectually and emotionally through fun hands-on activities is a win for everyone.

Pair manipulatives with math problem solving tasks so that your students can get hands on to figure out the solution. My Solve & Explain Problem Solving Tasks for 3rd Grade and 4th Grade have rigorous open ended questions that can nicely be paired with math manipulatives.






In short, get that competitive blood flowing in your kids while leveraging the power of teams, remember that word problems can be a source of connection, rather than frustration, and try to get hands-on with new concepts to stimulate spatial thinking and foster a sense of fun. 


These strategies can help maximize engagement in your classroom. And remember, the most important contributor to student engagement is your own attitude. With enthusiasm for what you do and an all-in approach, you’re sure to infect a few kids with love for math.