When I was a kid I was completely mesmerized by the stars.
Growing up in a rural area I had such an amazing access to them. No city lights drowning them out. The stars were especially bright during winter, and I remember sitting outside staring at the sky until my cheeks were so cold they felt frozen. So cold in fact that the ground would creak when you stepped on the snow, and the northern lights danced in the sky almost every night!
I used to ask myself;
What is out there?
What do we actually know?
Most questions will never be answered, but we still have to ask them!
That’s why I love research units. It lets us take a look at the hard facts – and sprinkle them with philosophical questions. Don’t underestimate the power of philosophical questions in your classroom. We can teach our students so many things. Math concepts, literacy, science and more. Teaching them to ask question and to wonder is equally important. At least! [Probably even more important!]
I have always believed that not all knowledge should be “served” to the students. A lot of the contents I remember most vividly from school come from researching and exploring topics. We went exploring for knowledge in textbooks, encyclopedias and eventually online. One teacher stands out for me in particular, my social studies teacher at junior high. We did a lot of exploring in that class! Not because the teacher was lazy, not at all! We had clear cut directions of what to look for, questions to answer, and not to mention – questions to find! We had presentations, posters, papers and made neat notebooks, flipbooks and lapbooks! [Even though they weren’t called that back in the day.]
In my mind, there’s room for research within most topics. Even those that are clear cut and presented on a silver platter like a Michelin meal can be questioned!
I’ve created a framework for my students to explore different topics. The worksheets are high resolution so they may be printed as posters. This allows me to choose between group based projects with presentations, or opting for a regular scale print for individual work. The students have separate notebooks for these exploring topic pages, and we’ve decorated the covers.
|Click here to find the research unit!|
In my experience these research units work well for painting a picture of a topic – getting an overview.
In particular this applies for students that might have difficulties concentrating, or having a satisfying progress in their work. There isn’t a big, blank paper staring them down, and feeling that they have an overwhelming task ahead of them. These sheets have smaller boxes, and this appears to have a positive effect – focusing on one at a time!
It’s important for me to have some control of what the students must take away from a research unit like this. Because of that I have some pre-determined elements on the different posters/worksheets. In addition to that there are blank fields where the students decide themselves, and entirely blank templates for full teacher autonomy – or student freedom. 😉 Suggestions for inquiry questions are also found in the research unit, and you may use them as a basis or starting point. What would we like to find out? How can we approach this topic?