Investigating Arctic Animals Posters!

I have the world's smartest, cutest, sweetest first graders, ever.  I know you think yours are pretty great, but I promise... mine are absolutely the smartest, cutest, funniest, sweetest, most amazing group of first graders ever.  How in the world does one teacher get so lucky?

*Cease bragging*

I promised my first graders I was going to brag on them.  Well, I bragged to everybody in the school, so now I have to brag to the entire internet. :-)

When I took a class over the summer appropriately called "Informational Books", we did something called in "investigation."  While we didn't do it as in depth as a student might, we got the concept of how students can take information and "investigate" it and make a poster with this information as a sort of visual display of the information.  This got the wheels in my head turning.  After our Winter Break, I decided that my class would do an investigation of their own.

You know as well as I do that asking first graders to do research on a topic is pretty much futile.  We did our research as a class.  We started doing research as a class on whales to go along with the book "Our Whale Watching Trip."  I even mentioned what I was going to be doing to my librarian, and she helped my students look up information in the encyclopedias and on the internet. :-)  Then we did some research on penguins and polar bears.

We read some informational books, and I gave my students one of these "Cool" Facts sheets on a clipboard.  We would read a little bit of the book, then I would stop and give them time to write down facts they thought were interesting or that they might want to share with others.  I let them share their facts with their partner, and their discussions about what they had learned were so cute!

I learned from my mistakes the first round, so when we wrote about the polar bears, I showed my students how to use bullet points to help them with their note taking.  So cute!  I told them it wasn't necessary to write "polar bears can" every time, but that they could just write the fact on the paper with a bullet point.  This really helped them organize their thoughts in a neat way.

Once we did all of our research, we practiced writing sentences using the "Can, Have, Are" graphic organizers.  I added the "Eat" and "Live" sections as well.  We compiled our interesting facts onto these graphic organizers, and then used it to help us write complete sentences about the animal.

Fast forward a few days, and we started to work on our posters.  Holy cow, I was so impressed!  To help them organize their thoughts, I gave them 4 squares to do their writing in.  At the top, we wrote the "topic" they were writing about.  Then they had to write 2 facts in each square.  To help them think about the topics, we brainstormed some topics we could use.  It was hard at first, but they figured out what they were supposed to do, and we came up with a great topic list.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it!

Then they got to work writing in their squares!  I asked for a minimum of 3 squares, though many (most!) of my students wrote in all 4 squares!  I checked their work to make sure it was factual and correct, as well as neat.  I also checked to make sure they had at least 2 facts on each topic.

Before we began actually making our posters, I modeled how to lay out their posters using their squares, the pictures I provided that they COULD use (not had to!), and their text feature.  We talked about leaving space for a border and title.  We discussed laying things out where we wanted them before we glued, so we didn't have to pull things up.  The students watched as I took my pieces and laid out my own poster and thought aloud about how I wanted to arrange it.  It must have worked, because almost all of them listened to the directions and didn't pick up a glue stick until after they had everything where they wanted it.  I was so proud that they listened so well and took the time to lay out their posters so they were nice and neat.  We talked a lot about how they needed to be neat instead of messy and sloppy.  Nobody wants a sloppy poster!

The process took a lot of time, I admit, but it was worth it.  When it was time to assemble our posters, it was easy!  Each student cut out their squares and arranged them on their poster.  Then they had pictures (clip art) available to put on their posters if they wished.  They also had to use one text feature; most of my students chose a map that showed where the animal lives.  A few chose pictures with a caption or label.  I would not let them glue anything down until I had checked them.  Once they had arranged their poster pieces and made sure they left room for a title, I allowed them to glue and add a border to their posters.  Watching these posters take shape was nothing short of awesome.  Every student (except one, but I'm not talking about her!) was working so hard on their poster.  The students who were still working on their writing worked so hard so they could get started assembling their poster.  And every single kid was working so hard, they didn't even notice when I stepped out of my door to flag down our Writing Coach so she could come see what they were working on.  She was also super impressed!

They even used books as resources when they needed information to complete their poster.  One of my students is helping another figure out where her animal lives on a map.

I was so super impressed and proud of their work!

Would you like to see some of their awesome posters?

Love the picture with labels!

This little cutie used a picture with a caption.  Penguins like to toboggan. :-)



Tell me those aren't absolutely amazing?

I am SO PROUD of what my babies did!  I just love it when something comes together and is absolutely perfect.  I have literally been working on this unit for weeks and weeks!

I thought that maybe some other people might want to use this unit in their classrooms, so it is now in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop.  In the effort to NOT turn this post into a commercial, I will post a link to it here, but I will make another post about the unit itself later.  I want you to focus on my SMART STUDENTS!!! :-)  But I did work really hard on this, and I'm quite proud of it.  So if you would like to at least check it out, there it is!

What do you think of our little project?  Have you ever done anything like this with first graders?  It was a lot of work, as I said, but the outcome has been amazing.  Just wait until you see their books... :-)


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