Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Research in Lower Elementary

RESEARCH? At age SIX!? YES!!! Research at this age is as simple as asking a question and finding resources to answer that question - then just telling us the answer (or drawing it, or writing it out - or however the child wants to express himself). I guess that is the one requirement to research in the beginning: that they come up with an answer to the original question, even if they move on to other questions.

As they get older and are comfortable with knowing that they CAN do this research and that their questions WILL be honored, then we started with simple steps towards what we adults think of as research.

There is no one right way - except to follow a plan that is totally arbitrary to the child in front of you. Take a general guideline and adapt to the child's needs ;)

The first step for my son was encouraging him to write his answers in his own words. This lays the foundational skills for avoiding potential plagiarism. As he hit spots where he just couldn't do this own words because the others words were just SO wonderful and precise, I reminded him of quote marks to show the specific words of someone, and to put the name of the author and book in parentheses after his writing. Two years later, he is now footnoting these references.

When he starting getting into longer and longer research projects, he started writing his resources used on note cards. Then he could note page numbers of interesting bits of information for future referencing.

At age 8 1/2, he has not yet done full bibliographies with all the printing information --- did you at that age? Some people are aghast that Montessori at the elementary age encourages all this research, but not all the steps that you and I had in middle school and high school (and only minimally in elementary if at all!). When he puts a few paragraphs together, he does provide a list of his resources by title and author.

Speaking of plagiarizing and expectations - a girl at one of the local schools a year older than my son was talking about a report she had to write for school when she saw my son in the atrium doing some research on an ancient civilization. She saw him listing out his sources and where he got each bit of information - very loosely done but a step in the right direction. The two children talked a bit about research and I heard her comment, "I don't bother writing down where I got what, because I just copy sentences from different books and turn it in with a list of books I used." My son replied, "If you don't put direct copying into quotes, then it's not your work and you're stealing from that author who put a lot of work in that book!" (I never said those words to him! Not like that!) "Yeah, but I tell the teacher which books I used." "But if your report has your name on it, you're lying and saying it's your work when it's not. Just put it in quotes and say who said it - or say it in your own words. You wouldn't want to be a liar or thief!" She thought about it for a bit; walked away looking kind of angry and kind of sad; went back a little while later and asked him to show her what he meant. I didn't hear all the details, but I thought, "Wow - my son is really catching on!" And he wasn't being mean about things either (he can have a bit of an attitude so I was very proud of him in that moment).

Think BABY STEPS. Develop those habits in tiny steps at a very young age, and the work will just flow when they are older without having to unlearn old habits or develop new ones.

Use resources, aim for as many real experiences as possible, within research and without. This second one can't be overstated - you may not be able to take your child to an active volcano, so you may need to bring in videos or visit exhibits of as real-life as possible, but you can certainly get your children out into the community, talking to "experts", visiting those exhibits, sharing your stories of being at various places, touching the rocks that come from various types of volcanos, finding out what those rocks can DO for us, planning a real or pretend long-distance trip somewhere (and all the skills needed for that!), and definitely helping to plan real trips (errands, etc.). These skills are just part of real life and are not specific to Montessori ;) These things all help to develop planning skills, organizational skills, survival skills (even as basic as what to do if you are lost in a public place), and other life skills that we all want our children to have.

Real experiences :)

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