Welcome to a series of ten lessons on planet research! This set of lessons is part of a larger unit my district is implementing all about the topics of space and books with great word choice. My grade level completes a research report or project for each of our six thematic units. This happens to be the fifth research project my students are completing this year.
I loved completing these lessons because none of my students' reports came out the same - even those who researched the same planet! The design of this unit was inquiry-based, so students chose the direction of their report. Some were interested in the history of their planet - how it got its name, who discovered it, etc. Others wanted to know if there were features similar to Earth, or why their planet had so many moons.
I've included the Planet Research Packet in this section of my lesson on each day. I refer to page numbers as I walk you through each day of this series of lessons, however I left page numbers off, in case there were pages you didn't want to use. You may notice that my student samples vary slightly from the packet I've provided for you. I made changes to the packet as I noticed things that could be made better. I hope you and your astronomers find these resources helpful as you research planets! Thank you! (See Resource File: Planet Research Packet)
*Clipart in my lesson picture purchased from ScribbleGarden on Etsy
Review: I review yesterday's lesson about taking notes from digital and print sources. We go through our checklist on page five of our packet including copying a few words, no plagiarism, copy accurately, stay on topic, and writing the most relevant information only. I also borrow a few exemplary notecard samples from students to display as a review. I also show the students how to apply the Readability app to the articles they're reading. (See Resource File: Planet Research Packet - Page 5)
Lesson: I want to adjust my instruction to meet the needs of my students. Yesterday, during independent research time, I noticed that the students had the most questions about what to do if they couldn't find an answer to a question they has posed. So, I begin by modeling that today. I have posed the question, "What satellites have taken pictures of Venus?". I chose this question because I know that I won't be able to answer it, however I can model for students how I'll still inquire about photos of Venus, just in a different way. I pull up one of our research sites and we begin reading to find the answer. We quickly notice that we can answer questions about the first satellite to take pictures of Venus, and decide to modify our question. I explain to students that it's okay to change a question, but they should try to keep it about the same topic that they were interested in. In this case, we are still learning about satellites and pictures of Venus.
Similar to yesterday, I move around the room assisting with reading and note taking as needed. Most of the students were doing well yesterday, but I have a few I'll check in with first. The students continue to answer questions they've generated about their planet. (See Resource File: Student Sample Three and Four)
Review: We review and celebrate today's learning.
Peek at Tomorrow's Mission: I let the students know that we'll have our final research session tomorrow. They'll want to make sure they have up to five notecards, each with a different question, and answers in the form of notes. If they have more, that's great!
Here are some additional resources you may find helpful if you're working on a space-themed unit.
Do We Wish Upon a Shooting Star, or Falling Rock?: This document is an informational passage that includes multiple choice questions. My students need practice with these types of questions, including those with multiple answers, questions with Part A and Part B, and fill in the blank. I teach in Illinois, and our students will be taking the PARCC Assessment beginning next year. I hope these types of tasks will help prepare my students for these tests, as well as our end-of-unit assessments, and overall mastery of the standards. The focus of this assignment are standards RI3.1, RI3.4, and RI3.7. (See Resource File: Shooting Star, or Falling Rock MC Practice)
I try to incorporate standardized testing practice all throughout the year. Giving students lots of practice in slow, steady amounts is much better than having all of it right before testing. Right now, there isn't a lot of materials available to support PARCC-like questions and tasks. I have found it helpful to create things this year, such as passages and questions by using the Lexile Analyzer to assess the level of my passages, as well at the PARCC Model Content Frameworks as a guide for creating questions and other tasks.