After many years of assigning state reports, I decided to give the kids an opportunity to choose whichever state they wanted to research. Knowing that most already had a favorite in mind didn't deter me from trying to expose them to other possibilities. Kids are making decisions all the time, and sometimes without much thought. I want them to learn that before making choices, it's important to be educated about options. This unique way of deciding on a state is good practice. Enter...the activity.
I take them to the library for this activity. My objective is to get them thinking about the different states in the different regions of the country. In addition, the chance to focus on their own likes and dislikes, characteristics that appeal to them, and favorite locations in regard to where they'd like to visit or live someday. With all of the reference books and non-fiction texts in the United States books' section in our library at their disposal, lots of data is taken down.
The worksheet is "Selecting a Research Topic" for State Reports. The kids answer the preliminary questions and look up states from different regions. Everyone will learn something, and for the student who didn't have an opinion about which state they'd like to do, this handout might help, Which state to pick?. South Carolina looks interesting...
Research opportunities with CCS have deviated from the lengthy projects of the past. With W.5.7 students are conducting short research projects that use several sources to build their knowledge. Although the traditional 5th grade state report has been changed, I believe the "less is more" adage and see the kids benefiting from their research more than when it was laborious.
We have a regularly scheduled library day, but during State Report Season I fit in an extra forty-five minute research/work period each week. Our library has great resources and it's also a nice way for me to observe their researching skills and work habits.
I encourage them to work efficiently during these sessions. Here are students working on all types of state report tasks and especially at those components that are harder to complete at home. For instance, using an excellent regions map book helps students to more accurately draw the state map of Hawaii. Students can trace state outlines, and read the relevant information. This is less complicated than using an atlas for the activity. They also like to use the giant windows to trace. There are other reference materials that aren't able to be checked out, so they need to take advantage of what's in front of them on those research days. Another consideration is text complexity. Content and text can be challenging, so having a teacher or librarian right there as a resource is advantageous. It can't be stressed enough that writing the text in their own words is the only way to go. When I observe kids writing and not using their own words, I'm happy to be right there to explain, correct, and help them find alternatives.
With longer reports, such as these, presentations need to be abbreviated. Kids are excited to listen at first, but after a lot of them, attention spans are expired and disrespectful behavior begins. I avoid this with the shorter presentations, but it doesn't take away from sharing. I expect the kids to exhibit excellent listening skills- writing down questions if they have them. By this time in the year, they are all accustomed to standing before their classmates and speaking. It makes me proud to see how even my reserved kids are confident in front of their classmates now.
I assess their state report with a rubric of all research components, and their speaking and listening evaluation is a separate grade. Separating the standards is easier with our school district's standardized based reporting.
My kids have a complete report in a binder, and a project that highlights the symbols of their state. They are given the opportunity to share three or four interesting components of their report, then thoroughly explain the items they chose for their project.
After everyone has presented their report, we walk our state report projects down to the library for temporary display. I warn my students that their projects will sit on top of a bookcase, and other kids may touch them, even if told not to. This disclaimer may discourage a few from participating in the mini-exhibit, but at least everyone has been warned...
Although the projects have been relocated to the library, it's a great idea to put the State Report Binders on desks or tables and give the kids the opportunity to walk around and page through their classmates reports. This gives them the chance to learn more about the states at a slower pace.
Animoto video showing our State Reports: