The students have their assigned state, their books or computers and they are ready to begin. I first explain my expectations and show examples of good and poor quality work. If this is your first year doing the reports, ask students if they wouldn’t mind leaving their reports behind when they are done. This way you have examples for next year. Some will always donate for the next year. Take the good and bad examples. Sometimes the bad examples are the best.
I try to not spend a lot of time describing the entire project because it can be overwhelming for the students and you will be asked a million questions that are irrelevant. I start with 1 page at a time. I never give my students all the papers for the project at once because they get lost and everyone will start on a different page. It is also daunting to be handed 12 sheets of research on your first research project.
The first day I always start with the cover page. I go over the directions and they can color. The goal is to be done within the hour.
The only way to manage so many questions and so many interruptions is to have students sign up to meet with you. I advise that they need to sign up on the board and wait until it is their turn. Students will inevitably interrupt you with other students and just come up to your desk. Be strong, and tell them they need to sign up at the board and wait their turn. This will help you focus on the student you are working with and not constant interruptions.
As the students complete each page, review the directions and log their grade on your grading sheet.
Time Needed: I try to estimate the time needed for a State Report by how many pages of research that needs to be completed. I plan 60 minutes for each page. To map out your project, take the number of pages of research and multiply it by 60 minutes That is how I plan the days needed to dedicate to the project.
In the beginning, I give a little extra time to get started and work out the procedures such as signing into the computer and how to find the information they are looking for.
My favorite book to use for this project is the America the Beautiful series. Our school library has a set of these books for every state. Once we assign the state, the students check out their book. They still need some access to the Internet at times, but this limits the need for computers.
To manage deadlines, I highlight the grading sheet if a student has had more than 2 hours to work on something, I start reminding them that they need to finish an assignment. I highlight the students left on my grading sheet so I can keep track if they were late turning in an assignment.
Next Post: The First Day of Research and Managment
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One thing I have learned over 13 years of doing state reports is to draw states randomly. This is a very exciting day and the students look forward to picking their state. I really preface that before picking states that we are trying to do research on a state that you may be unfamiliar.
Occasionally, I will have the student that is going to pout, because they didn’t get the state they wanted. They will usually recover. Although, if you have that special student who will make everyone miserable because they didn’t get the state they wanted, there are options. Pick your battles, if they can’t calm down you can:
Do a trade- tell the class, “if you don’t like your state go to the back of the room, and you may trade with those in the back of the room and no one else that is seated.” I have only had this happen twice when I knew a student was going to ruin the whole month for the rest of the class.
Let them draw another state after school, or when the other students aren’t noticing. This will eliminate everyone wanting to draw again.
Most students want a familiar state, I was born…, my parents are from…., etc… Disappointment is always around after drawing states, but after State Day I always ask if they liked the state, and I have never had a student say, “No”. They are proud of what they learned and typically want to visit the state in the future.
Time-Saving Tip: Have a fast finisher or your teacher assistant cut the states out for the drawing and fold in half. After the student draws their state and you have recorded the state, collect the slips of paper and keep it in a sealed bag for next year.
Don’t Forget – If sharing copies with your partner teacher hand the remaining states next door for them to draw. You don’t want duplicates, because you only have the 50 copies.
I use folders to store all the student’s in progress work. Red or blue are good colors because you can easily see if they are put in desks or left somewhere in the classroom. I have my students turn them in at the end of their research time in a file sorter. With the file sorter you can quickly see that Student #3 didn’t turn in their folder in the picture above. I don’t let them go home or get stuffed in a desk. I have the person who is assigned as the teachers assistant check at the end of the period if all of the folders are filed.
I learned quickly to keep all of the work in the classroom. During my first few years I thought students would be responsible and all of the following occurred:
“I can’t find my folder!”- This causes more frustration the next day when they can’t find it, and you have to tear apart a desk while the rest of the class needs you.
“I took it home by accident.” and it never returns. – This ends up being your time punishment because that is 20 more minutes you end up printing and making custom copies for one student.
“I took it home and couldn’t stop.”- Now this student is done with everything and then have nothing to do but bother their friends and ask for free time on the computer.
“I took it home and my parents helped me.”- We want the students to learn how to research and finish a big project. I had a student that her parents did her board and it looked so superior to the others that this caused tensions among the other parents on State Day.
To prevent any of the above situations it is much easier to collect and store the work on any large project.
Coming Up Next: State Reports Part 4 Assigning States
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To prepare for the project I start by making the necessary copies. I usually have 25 students. I partner with another teacher and they do the other 25 states.
Time-Saving Tip: Print everything and share with your partner teacher. If you don’t have a partner, and you know you are going to do this next year; just keep the other states for next year. Just make sure to keep the undrawn state papers separated, so the next year’s students only draw the states you have printed.
If you are using my 50 State Bundle, I have set up the files so you only have to print once. Print the following:
Print the PDF- 50 State Report Cover Pages
Print the PDF- 50 State Report Physical Maps
Print 1 State Report Research Topics (Make 50 Copies)
Print 1 State Expansion Research Papers (Make 50 Copies)
Print Choice of Rubrics (Make 50 Copies)
If you are in 4th grade and doing one state, print once, and then make enough copies for your class, of the topics you would like them to research.
In order to keep all of my copies organized I use this basket. You can flip the paper both directions to keep papers organized, have easy access, and there are no folded corners.
Grade As the Students Finish Each Section
If you are using my State Research Report from Teachers Pay Teachers then open the “State Report Grade Book” from the files. This will help to manage the grading while the students are finishing each page. Fill out the grading worksheet with your student’s names. I also include the state they are assigned. The spreadsheet is editable. It is easy to copy from your online grade book roster and paste the names into the Excel program. Just print, and as the students complete each page of research, grade them and keep this as a record to enter in the online grade book. This will also give you an idea of research progress and if students are not managing their time.
Look for Part 3 coming soon discussing how to assign and manage a State Report project.
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For the majority of my 5thgrade students, this will be their first exposure to a large-scale research project. It is a momentous task for the teacher to manage 25 different projects, be available for one on one help while ensuring that no one falls down the rabbit hole of time. Parents are excited to see their child’s work on State Day and an unfinished project can lead to hurt feelings.
It takes about a month to complete everything prior to State Day. Parents are invited to the gym on a Friday morning for a few hours and the students run their state booth. Most students bring food from their state and dress up in state-related clothes and other grades are invited to view and eat their way through the United States. It is a popular event for the school. In the afternoon, my students present their reports to the class. It is a great day, but it can be an incredible undertaking. Even if you are not going to the extreme of a State Day, I hope these tips will help you and your students have a positive experience.