Getting Primary Students Ready to Research

Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

We all know just how important it is to teach our students research skills. These include how to find information from print and digital sources, how to evaluate that information and how to use that information correctly. Over the next few weeks, I am going to write a series of blog posts providing ideas, advice, and resources that you can use to teach research skills to all your students, including your youngest.

With kindergarten and first graders I like to use the term research-readiness. I want to teach my students skills they will need that will help them to prepare to become researchers. This includes learning about the difference between fiction and nonfiction, understanding that nonfiction text teaches us information, understanding that text features help us to find information quickly and how to begin to search for information on their own. These are things that can be taught all throughout the year in tiny, bite-sized lessons.

Lesson Ideas and Examples:

  • Compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction books. Begin by sorting fiction and nonfiction books and then move on to sorting nonfiction books by topic. Combine this with discussing call numbers and how library books are organized.
  • Read a fiction book to students about animals like Elephant and Piggie. Ask students if real elephants and pigs act that way. Do they go to parties and wear clothes? 
  • Book pairings: Read a fiction and a nonfiction book on the same subject and then discuss the differences between the two. 
  • Read nonfiction books in your storytimes. Do picture walks before reading and have students make predictions about the text and discuss what they think they will learn from the book. Create KWL charts together. 
  • Have students complete graphic organizers and write or draw about something they learned about in the book.
  • Introduce nonfiction text features with ebooks. As you read talk about how the book is organized and point out the different ways information is presented. Practice using the index and glossary. 
  • Give students time to explore nonfiction books in pairs or in groups. 
  • If you use centers, create a nonfiction literacy center. Take a book basket and put in books about a specific topic. Allow students time to just look through the books and read or pretend-read. If the books are about ocean animals you can include some cards with the name and picture of different ocean animals. Students can sort the pictures into different categories or play a matching game. Provide paper and crayons so they can draw and write about the books. 

Simple Research Projects

Once your students have a good understanding of nonfiction and informational text it's time to do some simple research projects. Animals are one of the best topics for students to research. In my school, first grade visits the zoo in the spring, so I usually do a zoo animal project with them. All of these templates can be found in my I Can Research - Zoo Animals pack.

Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

I begin by explaining to students that they will be looking up facts about a zoo animal. I will remind them that they are looking up facts (an elephant has a trunk or a cheetah runs fast). They will not be writing an opinion (penguins are cute). I found that this cannot be reinforced too often. Then I will show them the research pages they will be filling out. I will display a page on the SmartBoard and model how to fill it out. Below are two pages to help students prepare for their research, to think about what they know already and what they want to know. Side note: I do not always use these in the library. It can take a lot of time to have first graders fill these out, time that I just don't have.

           Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

Next, I show them the pages where they will record their facts. I explain that they have four questions they want to answer: what is the animal's habitat, what does the animal look like, what does it eat, and what is it's life cycle? Then they will write one extra fact that they found interesting.

          Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

I also included two different writing pages if you want the students to write up their facts. Many times the classroom teacher will do this with their students in class. I will give her the papers the students filled out and she will do a more formal writing lesson. 

          Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

And I always end with the bibliography. The bibliography is very simple but important. I like to introduce the concept of copyright with my students as soon as possible. All they need to do to fill it out is put a checkmark in front of what they used to find their information (computer, book or magazine).
Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

I have students look up information in two different ways. I pull all the different zoo animal books that I have in the easy nonfiction section and have students read through them. And I also use Chromebooks so they can search online. I think Pebble Go is the best tool for younger students to use for research purposes. It is simple, easy to use and provides just the right amount of information. If you do not have Pebble Go, World Book Online has an early learning version that you can use. Or if you are looking for websites I like these:
Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

In this research pack, I have included a set for 14 different zoo animals, plus a generic set that can be used with any animal. The animals included are:
  • Crocodile
  • Elephant
  • Flamingo
  • Giraffe
  • Hippopotamus
  • Koala
  • Lion
  • Monkey
  • Panda bear
  • Penguin
  • Polar bear
  • Rhinoceros
  • Tiger
  • Zebra

Your freebie

I created a one-page research graphic organizer for you to download. You can find it in the free resource library. 

Zoo animals informational text nonfiction library skills

Helpful Resources in my TpT Store

I have several products in my store that teach many of the concepts mentioned above. Links to them are below.




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