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 dontate 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 the teachers assistant check at the end of the period if all of the folders are filed.
I learned this quickly. I thought students would be responsible for my first few years of teaching 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 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 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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At my school we have a tradition of State Day. All 5th grade students are assigned a state and they research their state, create a poster, and on State Day they run their “state booth”. The students even wear costumes that represent their state. I have had students dress up as fisherman from Alaska, a Minnie Mouse costume for Florida, and cowboys from Oklahoma. The students bring display items and food for tasting. We tape their poster on the front of the cafeteria benches and invite parents and other grades to come visit in the morning for about 2 hours. It is a great way to show off all of the hard work the students have completed.
Everyone looks forward to this event, but let’s backtrack to the month before the event when the work has to be done! Over the years, I have thought of all of the challenges that this project brings and how to make next years even better.
Challenges of the State Report
For most students this is their first exposure to research and handing them a sheet of paper to fill out through “research” can be daunting.
Answering the same question repeatedly
Even though you explained it in whole group, and everyone seemed to be listening, you end up answering the same question 25 times. I think I answered the question, “What is a natural resource?” 400 times in my career. Maddening I tell you!
Now it’s all done and how do I grade this gigantic project that’s worth a huge portion of this quarter’s grade. If the kid bombed they can never recover.
Weekends are filled with the task of grading this huge project. No teacher likes to go home and grade. We need weekends off!
Redesigning the State Report Template
As much as I loved State Day; I just dreaded this project. I set off to create a State Report that addressed the 3 challenges that I had identified. Each page of the research tells the students what is expected of them and has point allocations at the top of the page. This part can be cut off for display.
For those maddening questions, I answered repeatedly, I put an explanation under the question. I give an example of what is a natural resource, natural disaster, census etc..
The last part was to streamline the grading process. As the students complete each research page they sign up on the board to meet with me for grading of that page. I meet with students and check off the points. I keep a running score with the rubric form for each student. This helps if the project is taking a long time I can enter points for each page in the gradebook. This can also help me to be the time manager and ensure a student isn’t falling behind on the project. Parents expect a completed project and poster on State Day, and having a poster partially completed can be awkward. Yes, this has happened!