I debated about a mini report...about writing an article...a powerpoint...and then decided that this project was worthy of about a 45 minute time for the kids to take a 12x18 piece of paper and make a research poster--nothing more. So...I gave the kids simple directions:
1. You will be teaching someone from your poster so include the most important things they need to know about your topic.
2. You must include a title, headings, and a small glossary (we have been working on identifying "technical vocabulary")
3. You must include at least 2 examples of graphics/drawings/charts with captions and/or labels
4. You must work neatly, accurately, and use correct mechanics and spelling
5. You will be teaching your partner tomorrow--but you cannot READ your poster. You must teach from it.
I told them nothing more...and sent them off. I got the questions you would expect--and some you wouldn't!
"Can we use the books we used for our research?" Yes.
"Can we work together?" Yes.
"Can we make bold words?" Yes.
"Can we keep them when we are done?" Yes.
"Are we going to be graded on these?" No.
"Did I draw this dolphin upside down?" (Seriously. This was one of my questions today. My reply..."What do YOU think?")
And for the next 45 minutes I wandered around, asked questions, "noticed" things, found experts and directed other students their way, and celebrated. The students took such ownership and used each other, the informational texts, and their own notes to create wonderful teaching tools to use tomorrow. They begged for another work time so they could make them just a little more "professional" ("professional" is a big thing in our room!), and--of course--the answer was yes.
I had no idea going into our "informational text workshop" today how things would unfold, but I left school today knowing that good things happened--because I got out of the way.