Saturday, June 1, 2013

A New Twist On The 3rd Grade Country Research Projects....Collaborating and Creating Something Awesome!


The third graders country project is one of the biggest projects of the year in the elementary.  Over the last six years as the teacher librarian at Van Meter it has been fun to see how this project has evolved and all the changes that it has taken on. 

The first year each student had their own little set of notecards and everything was done on paper.  The teacher wrote what they had to find on each notecard set before she handed them to the students. 

The next few years we added more and more online resources and changed some of the information that they had to locate about the country they were assigned.  We also added print resources to the library and reached out to the AEA (Area Education Agency) to borrow more from them as well.  The project was done on paper and all of them looked very similar in what they were to include.  

Two years ago the teacher was ready to take the project digital.  With my assistance in the classroom and library, she felt comfortable to take this project to the next level.  She used the notecards still but the project part was digital and most of the research was done online too.  
Last year she was ready for the information that they found throughout the research to be stored online in a wiki.  We set up the country wiki together and each student had to find the same information about their country.  They then typed the research into their country page.  We also have them several choices on what they wanted to create.  They could use Animoto, VoiceThread, PicMonkey, ComicLife, Keynote or Powerpoint....and could use them in any combination as well.  

The projects were really nice and they were very proud of what they created.  We put all of these together within the wiki to share with their classmates and others.  

You can read about last years work in the post Our 3rd Grade Country Project...Something A Little Different This Year.  
Then we come to this year.  We talked about how we could put a new twist on the country research project and make it even more collaborative and engaging.  There were several things that we did a little bit different.  

The third graders learn about the countries all year long.  After Christmas I started bringing in our AEA databases, such as specific parts of CultureGrams and Britannica, and several online resources such as NationMaster, Global Closet Calculator, and If It Were My Home. We also reviewed using SweetSearch4Me, netTrekker, and WebPath Express within Van Meter's Destiny. 

I put these resources and a few others in the corner of the Third Grade Symbaloo which the students used all year long to connect with the resources that they needed within the library and classroom.  The students and I did a lot of exploration of these resources and it raised their curiosity even more about the countries they were learning about in class. 
We also decided to make the wiki even more collaborative than the year before.  This year we would pair the students up.  Each pair would have their very own page on the "Let's Compare Our Countries Wiki" where they would keep track of the research they would conduct.  The third graders and I spoke about different ideas for organizing this information on their pages, but ultimately it was up to them how they would make this work.  
On the front page of the wiki we listed the project requirements, learning targets and standards the project would include.  This was very helpful for the students to refer back to if they had questions and also for parents to see what was required as well.  
I just loved watching each pair find the information while comparing and contrasting their two countries.  
Dustin and Aiden are just one awesome example of how well this collaboration worked out.  They compared Poland and Canada for their country research project. 
After the students researched their countries and completed the wiki pages, they took this information and created beautiful Smore's to teach others about their country.  A Smore is an online newsletter that can contain embedded videos, photos, text, titles and more with customized backgrounds, themes, colors and fonts.  

I created a Google Doc titled 3rd Grade Country Smore Project, made it public and placed a link on the Third Grade Symbaloo.  This made it very easy for the students to find the directions whenever they needed them.  
The Smore's were amazing.....Everyone created something unique and special to them.  
As they completed the Smore's, I had a couple of the third graders help me add them to a Padlet I set up to hold the country projects.  Within Padlet (use to be called Wallwisher) you can now choose the Layout.  With Stream, the posts are placed one below the other.  This would be perfect to put all of the Smore's together in one digital place.  
The students took the URL of each Smore and then "added by an url" onto the Padlet wall.  

Not only was it so nice to have all of the Smore's together in one place, it was also such an easy way to share with parents, our school community and others around the world.  

It is always so much fun to look back and see how projects and teaching has evolved.  This project is a perfect example of what is possible.  

The teacher and I talked about the students actually connecting to individuals from their country.  We could use Twitter and other forms of social media.  We could also use the network that I have through my Twitter, Facebook and other places.  We could also use a Google Map to create an interactive map of these connections.  The collaboration would then go outside of the four walls of our library which would definitely enrich this project even more.  

I can't wait to see how this project changes even more next year.....We will let you all know too. 


  1. Shannon that was amazing! I did CBB epub books this year with two third grade classes. I am going to take your page to them and see if they want to try this out as well.

  2. Hi there! Is there any way to use smores free as an educator?? Thanks!!!!