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‘Tour guides of their knowledge’

Second graders research topics, present nonfiction project

While leading an exhibit on frogs, second grader Alex Meyer focused on the facts: They eat bugs. They have teeth on their upper jaws  (but toads are toothless). Poisonous ones are colorful.

Kalen Lee shares information about snakes

Alex indicated how he found interesting information within several nonfiction books during his time spent as a researcher. “My teacher had me put sticky notes in books,” he said.

Alex and his classmates at Oriole Park Elementary School spent a recent morning as mini-experts, presenting information in the multi-purpose room turned nonfiction museum. The event was attended by parents, teachers and district administrators. The museum served as a celebration to cap off a month-long study by students on topics like hurricanes, tigers, butterflies, horses and birds.

“There are billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy,” said second grader Jace Bloomer as he talked about the sky and space.

Said student Amy Hernandez during her presentation: “Hurricanes are bad but cool, and are amazing but dangerous.”

Jace Bloom researched and presented on the sky and space

Big Ideas and Lingo

Students of second grade teachers Danielle Terpstra, Kristen Accorsi and Sarah Buys-McKenney created their own nonfiction books, complete with ideas condensed into sections and lingo as well as illustrations and diagrams. Each student used several books for research and to develop their materials.

“Because they had to look over multiple books, they couldn’t just focus on one page, they had to think about their ideas across all of their texts,” Terprsta said.

The teachers use a curriculum called Lucy Calkins Units of Study, which involves a nonfiction unit. Students learn early research skills, like how to access and read nonfiction. The class focused on becoming “tour guides of their knowledge,” McKenney said.

“Our real focus is that they learn to retell and talk about what they know as a topic, not just retell and talk about what happened in a book. It so they can pull in lots of books about the same topic and be able to talk in that expert way about what they wanted to talk about.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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