Research papers are a wonderful way to study a topic in-depth and really do some serious learning about a particular subject. Research papers can also be difficult for a young student to grasp. There are so many steps involved in the process: choosing a topic, finding sources, researching the information, sorting through all your information to see what's relevant, writing a rough draft, editing, then completing a final copy. Students will have the need for doing research papers for the rest of their academic years, so the earlier a student starts learning and practicing the process, the better equipped they will be.
Hewitt Homeschooling has come up with a very efficient and user friendly way to teach elementary students the process of doing a research report. We recently had the opportunity to use My First Report: Southern United States in our home school. This resource can be used as an entire unit study, and is suggested for grades 1-4.
Kelly just completed 3rd grade, and likes writing so I thought this would be a good fit for her. She had no trouble at all with the questions or projects. In fact, they may have been a bit on the easy side. I think a 1st and 2nd grader would need a good deal of help with this, and it would probably be 'just right' for a 3rd grader. Older children who struggle with writing or the mechanics of putting together a research paper might also find this helpful.
What is included in a packet? We received a 58 page packet of papers. There was a cover sheet, and then a fact sheet and question sheet for each state that is covered in the report. There are several maps - not only one of each state, but also a United States map and a North America map, so the student can learn the perspective of where the Southern States are located in relation to their own home state or other regions.
Also included is a crossword puzzle for review, some copywork, and reproducible blank 'report' papers in 3 different size ruled lines. The student can choose the width that they are most comfortable writing with, and the parent is allowed to reproduce as many of those sheets as the student needs to complete their report. (The remainder of the pages are not allowed to be copied - parents would need to order one packet per student).
This "My First Report" can be used in two different ways. A student can use it solely as the basis for a research report in the elementary grades. Picture this as a skeleton of a report, and the student learns how to "flesh it out". It gives good starting information, plus interesting tidbits and probing questions for the student to look up on their own, find the answers to, and write about in their report. There is a very thorough list of resources and books that can be obtained and used for bibliography as well.
Another way a parent could use this with their child is as a complete unit study. There are 11 states that are covered in this Southern States packet: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. There is enough material here to investigate one state per week, and stretch this study out over a quarter or more.
Unit Study ideas: There is a very creative list of ideas for further study in each of these academic areas: Bible, History, Geography, Social Studies, Reading, Language, Math, Science, Health, Music, Art, and field trips. I love all the ideas of songs to listen to in the Music section. The Southern culture is rich in its musical heritage and contributions to American music, and I would have never thought to include these songs in our study of the Southern States. There are also many clever games that you can make and use to remember the facts learned.
How we used it: We basically used the My First Report as a springboard to learn more about the Southern States. We have used most of the maps, and have gotten through about half the states so far. Because it's our summer time, and school is less intense, we are really being relaxed about having some fun with this and discovering many of the extras that go along with the unit study. Last year in school, Kelly learned the location and capitals of all the states, so this has been a great review of those facts for her. She remembered a few things from last year, but has learned a lot of new things as well through this study. She really loves knowing what each state's bird, motto, and state song are. One of Kelly's favorite activities was the states and capitals crossword puzzle that is included.
Fun Stuff: Since a southern staple food is biscuits, one of the extra activities we did was to take an afternoon and make biscuits from scratch. They turned out pretty good too! Kelly learned how to knead and cut biscuit dough.
Overall thoughts: I really love how the unit study integrates so many areas of learning into this project. A parent could make the research report as in depth as they want, and Hewitt Homeschooling really lays everything out so you can jump right into it and not have to spend much time coming up with resources and ideas. There is so much here in the packet that it would be difficult to cover it all, and there is also a wide variety of ideas and activities to appeal to a broad range of interests.
How much does it cost? The entire packet costs $8.95.
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