If you put all the books in your school library in a pile on the floor and asked your students to find a book on boats, imagine the reaction you'd get! You can introduce your students to research skills with a similar scenario. The result: Students instantly understand the need for the Dewey decimal system and are eager to learn it.
Following are some of the other strategies you can integrates into students´ library and class time to help them build research and information skills they´ll use the rest of their lives. The activities are designed to support what´s going on in the classroom — whatever the topic — so you can pick them up and apply them to any subject your students are studying now.
As a follow-up, have students graph the number of books in each section. Invite third graders to graph all (or most) of the library collection (In many school libraries, students will discover that there aren't too many 100s and 200s, but that the 300, 500, 700, and 900 shelves will give them a workout!)This information can help teachers and students plan research projects: If the class is studying important people in history, they´ll know at a glance if there are enough biographies to go around. Second graders can graph books in easy fiction, with one team taking A-B, another C-D, and so on. When their graphs are complete, ask: If you were an author, where would you fit on the graph?
Students then break into groups to conduct their own research. Animals are a popular topic for second and third grade. Invite each group to choose an animal, create a web on chart paper, then research specific questions, such as: What does the animal eat? Where does it live? What does it do in winter? Depending on availability of computers, students might create title pages on the computer, or they might word-process the entire report.
Choose a color to represent a research topic and give each student a card in that color to record their discoveries. For example, an invention timeline might include a card from each child that records an invention and a date. (And for younger students, you can write in some of the information yourself on the cards to make the research easier.
Next, have students use the cards to arrange themselves in chronological order, then place the cards in order on the time line.
For each new area of study, repeat this exercise with a different color: for example, I use green for authors/illustrators, blue for Olympic events, orange for art, red for space. Encourage students to browse the evolving time line throughout the year. The color-coded cards make it easy for them to see what else was happening at the time of whatever they are researching.
- After reviewing parts of the dictionary, demonstrate how to use the reproducible. (An overhead will come in handy for this step.) First, fill in a word related to a research topic (space, animals, addition, etc.) in the top section. Next, write in a definition of that word in the next box. Illustrate that word with a picture or example in the lowerbox.
- Have students complete their own dictionary pages for other words related to the topic.
- Ask students to arrange their papers in alphabetical order.
- Cut to separate the three sections. Mix up the bottom sections so they are not in alphabetical order, and bind all three sections on the left.
- Let pairs of students take turns with the dictionary, trying to match words with definitions and pictures.
Begin by displaying an atlas. Show students how to use the key to locate national parks. Ask: Which park is closest to our school? What parks have you visited? What national park would you like to visit?
Invite children (individually or in small groups) to choose their destinations. (Guide their choices so that you don´t end up with half the class researching Yosemite or Yellowstone. You might suggest places near where grandparents live to make connections in children´s lives.) Have students write to the parks for information. If computers are available, students can compose their own letters on the word processor. Using the mail they receive (which they´ll be quite excited about) plus other resources such as encyclopedias, videos, and software programs, have children create travel posters that advertise their parks as summer vacation spots.
Encourage a multimedia approach. Students might use a die-cutting machine to cut letters for their titles, use a program like Print Shop Deluxe, incorporate photographs from CD-ROM programs, and so on. Students´ posters make a great display for a spring open-house, where they just might inspire a family trip! As an extension to this activity, distribute the Meet a Mentor Reproducible (PDF), below, and challenge students to create a natural resources map of your town!