Shared Research in the Primary Classroom

If you teach primary there's a pretty good chance that you use shared writing in your classroom. It's a great way to model the writing process and it shows students what fluent writing looks like. But, shared research is just as important for developing writers to participate in.

Just as shared writing has its benefits, so does shared research. I use shared research often in my classroom and today I'm going to share what it looks like in my classroom. But first, let's cover the basics.

Shared Research
When I talk about shared research I'm referring to when you lead your students in the process of gathering facts and information on a topic. The process of gathering information is done in a whole group setting with the teacher sharing a text with his/her students. I sometimes call this shared information gathering. I've used this strategy for years, before it was included in the CCSS. And, chances are, you have to.

Why It's Useful
This strategy is especially helpful when the task of extracting information from a text is new to primary students. It is a skill that needs to be taught and modeled like any other skill we teach.

It's also useful when you have limited texts from which to pull those facts. We don't always have class sets of books on a single topic that students can use to independently collect facts. It's also helpful when your technology is limited. Beyond all that, if students don't know how to properly find relevant facts, having those books and enough technology becomes a moot point.

Shared research is especially helpful when you need to integrate your language arts and science/social studies time. If you don't have time in your day, due to school and/or district time requirements to have designated social studies or science time, you can easily integrate these subjects into your writing time.

Using the Shared Research
Once you have gathered information, your students can use it in a number of ways. They could use those facts to complete an informational writing piece, a constructed response, a graphic organizer, or a fun research project.

In My Classroom
I am one of those teachers whose schedule dictates that I integrate my science and social studies into my language arts time. I tend to use shared research when integrating science/social studies and writing. It works well for me.

Since I integrate science and social studies into my writing time, they essentially become a writing topic. Usually, these topics are best suited for informational or opinion writing, but sometimes, we do a research project in the form of a book or project.

Gathering the Information
This is how I facilitate shared research in my classroom.

Select a topic. Depending upon the time of year, we research various animals, historical figures, or events.

Determine what you'll research each day. If we're researching Abraham Lincoln I decide ahead of time what we will focus on each day (early life, beliefs, accomplishments, etc.).

Select a text. I don't always read an entire text in one sitting as each day we are focused on gathering specific information. Again, if we're researching Abraham Lincoln's early life, I focus on that information in the text I've selected. If you choose to do the same, I suggest you identify which pages you'll focus on ahead of time. 

Decide how students will use the information as you gather it each day. Sometimes I have the kids use the shared research to fill in a graphic organizer. Or, if we are working on a research booklet, they can use the information to work on relevant pages in their booklet. Or, they might use that day's research to write a few sentences summarizing what they learned. We are never ready to write a full informative or opinion piece after just one day of research.

Read aloud. Before I read aloud the selected section of text to my students, I set a purpose. I tell them that we will be focusing on finding specific information (like facts about Abraham Lincoln's early life, the years before he became an adult). 

Take notes (as a whole group). As I read to the students, I stop periodically (maybe every 2-3 pages) and ask them to share facts from the text up to that point. This usually requires some prompting on my part as they sometimes gloss over those key details that you know need to be included. I write their responses on an anchor chart. I continue to do this until I'm finished with that day's reading selection. At the end, I ask them to share other facts they recalled from the reading and add them to the chart. By recording the facts on a chart, the students can easily access the information we have gathered together when it is time to use it. 

Task students with using the information you've gathered. Again, as you gather a bit of information each day, task your students with using that information in some way. They could fill in a graphic organizer, or write a few sentences summarizing what they learned.

Get to writing! Typically, we use shared research for a week to a week and a half. By then, we have plenty of information to work with. Once we've gathered enough information, my students use the shared research to write about the topic. Depending upon the time of year and/or the needs of my students, we may do some shared writing first.
I like taking a structured approach to shared research. Typically, second graders don't inherently know which facts to focus on when they are asked to independently gather facts. They need scaffolded, teacher directed exposure to this process before they can truly be successful at the independent level.

That's it, friends. My brand of shared research (aka shared information gathering) in a nutshell.


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