Research: The Key to Unlocking the Door to Discovery

Do you struggle with managing research projects? Check out this post for five steps you can use to simplify the process.

Just about every classroom is expected to teach students to research, but just about every child wants the work to be done quick and simple. Yet researching is a lifelong skill kids need. Researching takes perseverance, doesn't it. BUT, if we give kids the knowledge of how to research, we unlock the door to discovering pretty amazing things. Kids are curious, aren't they?  So, tap into that curiosity and work researching skills into your routine.

As students work through the process, other reading skills are included such as main idea/details, text features, determining importance, and fact and opinion. As writers, students learn how paragraphs are organized with a topic sentence, supporting detail sentences, and a closing, and how paragraphs come together to explain in depth. So how can we make all of this easier for kids?

The first step in researching is to make the assignment clear and share why researching is important. Kids need to know exactly what is expected right from the beginning, so using anchor charts to outline what they will be doing and the steps involved, modeling how to get started, and what information students will be looking for breaks the assignment down into chewable bites.

Next, list the information sources they are expected to learn to use and demonstrate how to use them. Kids need to know how to use key words and which resources match the needs they have. Will the internet be used?  Are kids allowed to search on Google?  It's important that the kids know the rules in order to avoid breaking them.

Once the kids have the gameplan, they are ready to dig in, or are they? Well, you probably should model with anchor papers what is expected and demonstrate with a class paper how to conduct research. Outline the steps in a checklist to keep your kids organized and provide due dates for each section. As you ask the kids to do a step, model with the anchor paper how to do it.

As students work through the process, keeping them on task and working toward completion can be a problem. You can avoid that by having them use self evaluations to monitor their own progress. Collect and give feedback on the pieces of working leading up to the final project. If the kids have a rubric to follow, it will help them know how they will be graded.

If you have struggling students, you may find assigning the same topic to a group helpful. Then, you can pull them into a small group for guidance versus spreading yourself thin trying to reach and help them all. I'd suggest preselecting resources as a way to get students started, and you may also want to enlist the help of teaching assistants and/or your school librarian. If you want students to use the internet, you can use QR codes to ensure that your students get to the correct location on the web. 

Well, I hope these tips help you the next time you're scratching your head and trying to figure out how to get your kids to the final draft. To help you out, I put together this step-by-step freebie that you can use with any topic. Enjoy!
Writing Research Reports Made Easy

Happy Researching and see you next month!


Close Reading ~ What is it?

Hello everyone!

This  is Laura from Where the Magic Happens  and this is my first time blogging with this great crew! I have  been crazy busy at school and have had a million things going on!
Anyhow, I have been reading and reflecting A LOT about how to transform my literacy teaching  in this era of higher standards.  For about a year I have been a close reading groupie enthusiast.  There is so much literature out there and so many materials that, I did not know what to read or where to begin. I am so lucky to have my BFF Marie from The Literacy Spot… she always recommends the best reads.   My Amazon wish-list is about to pop!


So really what in the world is close reading?

According to Fisher and Frey, close reading is:

“an instructional routine in which students are guided in their understanding of complex texts.”  Basically, close reading is a component of dynamic reading instruction where students:
  • Read strategically
  • Interact with the text
  • Reread to uncover layers of meaning that lead to deeper understanding
  • Analyze multiple component of the text and illustrations
  • Focus on the author’s message
These are some of the most important things that I have learned about close reading:
  • Not all texts deserve a close reading
  • Close reading is also not necessary when the text is fairly accessible. In other words,  when choosing texts for close reading… you want to pick a text that do not give up their meaning easily or quickly.
  • Close reading is MORE than a worksheet!!! Our students need to interact with their peers and their teachers using academic language and  argumentation skills as they discuss the text.
  • Close reading is not one-and-done reading! Rather, it is purposeful, careful, and thoughtful.
And honestly, I could go on and on…


I really could give you a million reasons.

Close reading is not to be confused with guided reading. They are two extremely important instructional approaches that must be part of your balanced literacy.  Close reading  is not exclusively about eyes on print or reading accurately. In close reading we seek to explore the comprehension of ideas and structures more deeply. In other words, there will be times (especially during the first read) that my students will read, but some texts demand to be heard  and read aloud – poems are a good example.
These are some of the benefits of close reading:
  • It leads students on a cognitive path that begins with discovering the literal meaning of a text and ends with the exploration of deeper meaning and  a plan of what should occur as a result of the reading.
  • Close reading will help our students understand the mechanics of a text, especially vocabulary, text structure, and the author’s craft.
  • Close reading will require that all students cite textual evidence in their products. 
These are some of the differences between close reading in the primary and upper elementary grades:




If you are thinking that a close read is an easy task for the teacher… then you might be like Santa Claus in the month of August.
Close reads are divided into four different phases:
  • What does the text say? (general understanding and key details)
  • How does the text work? (vocabulary, structure, author’s craft)
  • What does the text mean? (author’s purpose)
  • What does the text inspire you to do? (extended thinking)
These four phases provide our students to explore, practice, review, and navigate through literary and informational text-dependent questions. {Hello again mCLASS!} Text-dependent questions drive close reading!

You go right ahead and download this evidence based terminology poster to use during your close reading time! {click on picture!!}

And just in case you are wondering, this is what Fisher & Frey recommend as the best think marks for close reading based on their research.


Don't forget to enter our huge birthday giveaway!  You don't want to miss it! Enter below using the Rafflecopter.
Until next time!


Increasing Pupil Engagement

This was a tricky post to write as I wouldn't really consider myself to have any particular area of expertise! I have led literacy in my school before but currently lead math, I love teaching phonics but fins myself teaching more RE each week these days than anything else, I deliver a lot of staff training, but this is on a whole range of different topics - definitely not just literacy. 

So I looked back over the posts I have written for Adventures in Literacy Land over the last year and realised that pupil engagement strategies was a common thread...

Making Writing Special: one way I set up the classroom environment to engage and motivate writers.

Using Story Sacks: a way to help children get exited about and explore different aspects of stories.

Learning Grids: a great and easy strategy for making learning more hands on and fun!

Consensus Activity: engage children by developing speaking and listening and collaboration skills.

This year I am cover teaching one day a week for a particular class and I am struggling to hold their attention for any significant amount of time. I am not used to this! I'm finding it hard. I need to cut my teacher talk time down even more.

The jigsaw strategy for imparting information is nothing new. I've read about it, been told about it on courses, watched video clips even. But for some reason I've never really used it as a strategy in my classroom.

Last week we celebrated World Religion Day and I wanted to give the class time to explore some of the main religions represented in our school. There are lots of lovely PowerPoint presentations out there that I could have talked through but instead, I thought I would try out this strategy with the class.
I set children in home groups of 6 and paired them up with each pair assigned a different religion. Each pair of children was given time to explore the religion using the information sheets I provided and a laptop to read the always useful information pages on the Woodlands Junior site!

After a short time, I moved the children to form their expert groups - pairs of children from different home groups who had been researching the same religion. They got together and discussed what they had found. Pairs had discovered similar information but each also seemed to have something new to share that the others hadn't read yet or taken in.

I then asked these expert groups to create an interactive poster to share at the end of the afternoon.

I gave them access to some lovely interactive notebook templates by Meredith Anderson and off they went!

I deviated from the traditional jigsaw strategy in that I didn't have them report back and share their expert knowledge in home groups again but rather had them present to the whole class...

 And there you have it! Very little teacher talk, lots of learning and lots of pupil engagement!


Celebrate our 2nd Birthday with a Giveaway!

It's time for us to finally have our giveaway!  We hope you have enjoyed meeting the new bloggers and becoming reacquainted with some of our seasoned bloggers. We still have a few more bloggers for the month of January, but we are ready to start our BIG giveaway!  One you don't want to miss!

You read that right! We are giving away a $100 Amazon gift card that you can use for you and your classroom!  What will you buy with all of that loot?  I don't even know where I would start!

Just enter the Rafflecopter below! Good luck!!


Focusing in on Guided Reading

Hi everyone!  It’s Jennie from JD’s Rockin’ Readers!  As you’ve probably heard by now Adventures in Literacy Land is celebrating its 2nd Birthday!  I’m very proud to say that I have been a part of this blog from the start.  I have gained some great friends over the past couple of years and I am so excited that we have some new bloggers on board this year!

We are talking about ourselves this month and what we feel we do well as teachers.  I thought I would talk just a bit about getting down to the nitty gritty of a Guided Reading Lesson.

I want to share with you today how I teach my Guided Reading Groups in a few short steps.

1.    I have an hour block for centers/guided reading each day.  I follow a mix of Daily 5 and additional centers.
2.    I try to meet with 3 groups a day.  It looks something like this:

Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 1
Group 4
Group 5
Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 1
Group 4
Group 5
Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
I like to meet with my lowest group every day, my low/middle groups 3x a week and then my highest two groups 2x a week.

3.    When I meet with a group, the first thing that we do is read the book that was read the last time we met.  It’s a reread and I will listen in and often take a running record on one of the students.  I want to make sure that the book is an appropriate instructional level.  After they read it, they put it into their Book Box that they use for Independent/Buddy Reading.

4.    Then, we do some sort of word work skill depending on the level book the students are reading.  This only takes about 3-5 minutes.  I like to make these very quick.

5.    Next, I will do a book introduction and we will take picture walk.  Many times, I will leave the ending as a “surprise” which then gives them a purpose to read.  We discuss important vocabulary words and also locate them in the text.

6.    Then it’s time to read.  This is VERY important.  During our lesson, every student reads the book independently.  We don’t do “round robin” reading.  It is imperative that every student reads the entire book- on their own.  I am there to help and intervene when needed to help them learn independent reading strategies.  I listen in as they read it with a whisper voice.

7.    Finally, since they are all reading at their own pace, they finish at different times.  I tell them to read it again until everyone is finished.  Then we will do some sort of quick comprehension skill.  After that, I keep the book until the next time we read.

I recently updated my Guided Reading Binder.  You can check it out by clicking on the picture!  I use Velcro for the student names so that I can easily change my groups around when I need to!  

You may also be interested in...


3 Easy Ideas to Boost Engagement during Guided Reading

Two years ago this month a group of passionate literacy teachers came together to launch Adventures in Literacy Land.  Our intention was to share ideas with each other and with you, our readers, so that we could learn and grow professionally.

To celebrate our blogging birthday, we will be reintroducing ourselves and sharing a few literacy tips in our areas of interest.  Then, we'll be wrapping up the month with a Big Birthday Giveaway.  Be sure to stop back and enter!

Here's a little bit about me...

I've been teaching for over 20 years, yikes! That makes me (a very young at heart) forty-something. Although I've taught many different grade levels, I'll always consider myself a first grade teacher since most of my years were spent there. However, several years ago I accepted a position as a reading specialist, doing what I love best, teaching children to read. :)

Here's a little bit about my area of interest...

I've always been especially fond of the time I share with students in a small group setting teaching guided reading.  So today I thought I would share a few of my favorite ways to boost student engagement during guided reading.

1.  Brighten Up Your Picture Walks 

Take a picture walk to search for tricky words and preview important vocabulary with these mini-flashlights.  You'll see students' faces light up when you hand them this 'reading' tool!

2.  Replace Lined Notebook Paper with Novelty Notepads

If you are like me, you have a basket full of notepads and sticky notes.  I use them during guided reading lessons to spark a little enthusiasm for writing.  We complete word work activities and written responses on these fun notepads.

(The problem/solution tablet shown in the last frame is from Primary Paradise and will be glued into our interactive notebooks when complete.)

3.  Add Pizazz to Close Reading

Many of my developing readers tend to shut down when reading activities require stamina and deep thinking.  For close reading, we break down the tasks and work through them one step at a time.

The Sticky Note Jot Spots from One Extra Degree are great for digging deeper into the meaning of text.  Students use the bookmarks as a reminder of what they are 'digging' for, then they jot down their thinking on stickies.

I can't tell you how much students look forward to using the highlighters pictured above while they read.  Each color has a different purpose.  You can print the labels for yourself at First Grade Bangs. (The Koala passage is from Mrs. Thompson's Treasures.)
Thanks for celebrating Literacy Land's second birthday with us!  I hope you found a tip or two that you can use with your readers.  Stop back again soon!


Making the Math and Literacy Connection

Two years ago, I connected with some online reading friends and this blog was the result.  The journey has been fantastic.  In celebration of our blog birthday this month, we are reacquainting each of you with our authors and introducing new authors.  We are also doing an awesome giveaway at the end of the month, so keep checking back for more information.
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Last school year, I entered a new realm in my educational life as a math/science instructional coach after being a literacy coach for six years.  I continued to blog here to keep current on what works in literacy instruction.  This year I am excited to focus on blogging about making the literacy connection in math.
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Using the strategies students learn in reading during math, they can become better mathematicians, so they won't have to "chuckle about not being good at math."

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Each month, I will tackle a different topic that will help you make stronger connections between your math and literacy instruction, which will in turn help your students become more confident readers and mathematicians.

As a preview of what is to come, we will kick things off by talking about how to use a common literacy strategy in math:  word splash.

Word splash is a comprehension and vocabulary strategy where words and short phrases about a concept are "splashed" on the whiteboard, Smart Board, windows, or a large piece of paper.  Students create statements that connect at least two words/phrases as predictions about the concept(s) they are about to study.

What I love about using a word splash is it connects the beginning of the lesson to the end of the lesson.  Students make predictions.  You teach them about the concept (in this example - introduction to fractions).  Finally students come back to their predictions and determine which were correct and which were misconceptions.  To turn it into a summarizing activity, you can add some additional words learned through the lesson (examples:  numerator, denominator, thirds, halves) and have students create summary statements (or paragraphs) that connect as many words as possible in a meaningful way.

Word splash is an easy way to facilitate a discussion with students and providing them scaffolds to use the correct terminology.  Word splash is also a great way to give a pre-assessment and post-assessment without giving a "test."

Want to take it to the next level?  Have students create their own word splashes.  OR get the students moving.  Write each word on an index card (or name tag) and give one to each student (or place in random parts of the room).  Give students the opportunity to mingle and talk to each other about what they know about the words for five minutes.  Then have students go back to their seats to write connecting statements individually.

What are the connections to literacy?  So, so many:  making predictions, making connections, vocabulary, writing statements that require students to think about similarities and differences, summarizing.

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