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Octopus Research, Part 1

I just wrapped up some SUPER fun octopus research in first grade!  This is the first time I've done "real" research with first graders.  I didn't have first grade last year and this year I found it challenging to decide what to do with them in the first part of the year.  Now, I think we're finally in a groove and are doing great things!  

I started this whole-group project with the goal being to take the kids through the research process.  We'd share our learning by creating a nonfiction book to keep on the shelves in the library.  I'm so proud of how well these first graders did with their first big research project!

Fiction and Nonfiction Octopuses:
As a lead in to octopuses, we ended our favorite characters unit with one of my new favorite books Squid and Octopus, Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu.  There are four amusing short stories about good friends Squid and Octopus, the illustrations are beautiful, and I highly recommend it!

After reading this book, I asked students what they wondered about octopuses.  We looked at a few pictures of octopuses to get our brains going and listed out our questions.

The kids had some really great questions and the three classes had pretty similar wonders (excuse my horribly messy writing-too-fast handwriting!).  This class though had my favorite questions - Why do their faces look the way they look? and What activities do they do? Sadly, we did not discover any unexpected activities, mainly just moving, hiding, eating, and squirting water and ink.

Planning Our Research
After writing down our wonders, we brainstormed places we could possibly find information about octopuses.  Again, these first graders amazed me.  Books, BrainPop Jr., aquariums, zoos, biologists, and PebbleGo were all named as potential places for information.  As much as we wanted to go to the zoo or the aquarium, we narrowed down our resources to nonfiction books, Brainpop Jr. and PebbleGo.

Finding Information
I found it easier to use my document camera during note taking because I could show both a book and our note paper, as opposed to reading a book and then writing on the Smartboard (also, as you saw, my writing on the SmartBoard is not nice or neat!). I could zoom in on the index, glossary, or pictures, as well as the notes we were taking. 

I took the students' big questions and made a note sheet to keep track of our information needed to answer our questions.
The timing of this project worked out really well because the kids were learning about nonfiction text features in the classroom.  Table of contents, index, and glossary were fresh in their minds, which made it easier for me since I didn't have to spend a lot of time teaching and explaining the features.  It was also more meaningful for the kids to be learning about each feature in the classroom and then actually USE them as we searched for information.  

Stay tuned for part 2: presenting our information!