The Common Core Shift: Short, Focused Research Projects in Elementary Grades


Instead of doing one or perhaps two long-term traditional research papers, Writing Standard 7 of the Common Core calls for students to conduct a number of short, Focused Research Projects in Elementary Grades (SFRP) to build knowledge about a topic.  Both types of research have value.  TeachersFirst offers help here with resources and teaching strategies for more formal individual research projects and traditional research papers.  But because of the CCSS instructional shift, here we look specifically how you might plan a short, focused research project within an elementary science unit to build student understanding about the water cycle.

Short, Focused Research Projects in Elementary Grades (SFRP) span just a few class sessions and afford teachers of younger elementary students opportunities to work with standards across content areas.  They provide time to develop content knowledge while also addressing reading and writing.  You can foster an inquiry-based approach to learning and scaffold the process with whole-class and small group research projects.  Both literature and informational texts can be used in the course of a SFRP, some of which should be complex.  In an earlier piece here at TeachersFirst, we examined the subject of text complexity and the shift to greater emphasis on informational texts.  If we are to assist students in becoming independent readers of texts of greater increasing complexity to prepare for college and the workplace, we need to embed these texts whenever and wherever we can.  It certainly makes sense to do so in the content areas.  Let’s look at how to work with a complex text as part of an elementary science unit.



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