CLAMDiggers: An Enrichment Program for Upper Elementary Learners

This is the CLAMDiggers’ Enrichment Program Overview!

CLAMDiggers Overview

A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his/her might that which s/he desires. ~Paulo Coelho

I am very excited to share CLAMDiggers: a 52~week, cross-curricular, enrichment, and  interactive program I developed from my teaching and learning experiences with children, ages 8~11 years-old.

They always encouraged and inspired hands-on activities with readily available materials. Producing projects, such as games, books, sculptures, puppets, skits, paintings, food, keepsakes, etc. enhanced not only the learning process propelled by children’s love of an engaging read, but also, stimulated their creative skills in critical thinking, problem solving, visual & spatial reasoning, etc.

In the Beginning…

In the Classroom-Ludi
In the Classroom-Ludi

CLAMDiggers was originally developed as a classroom enrichment program and/or an after-school activity club for children, ages 8-11, integrating fiction and nonfiction literature with craft-making, role-play and artistic expression.

However, given the changing landscape of education, I tweaked and edited each Unit’s activities to make them more tech-friendly and accessible. Their priority remains as an interactive, hands-on learning experience.

Initially formatted for a classroom teacher, I re-worded Activity Directions into an Upper Elementary Independent Reading Level. The Lesson Plan is written as a guide for teaching reading comprehension within the thematic trade book selection list.

 An Educational Overview

Building Cognitive Skills with CLAMDiggers-Hires
Building Cognitive Skills with CLAMDiggers-Hires

CLAMDiggers is designed to build Cognitive Skills through Critical Thinking.

While promoting the ongoing development of a child’s eagerness to explore the accomplishments of creative production through manipulative experiences, CLAMdiggers:

  • cultivates an appreciation for appropriate children’s literature using a thematic approach
  • addresses cross-curriculum objectives throughout each lesson for analysis, synthesis and evaluation
  • inspires creative production using a variety of art media
  • provides opportunities for extension and enrichment within the framework of each session
  • increases an understanding of the global community on both physical and cultural levels

The impact of CLAMDiggers is immediate and expansive, as each child internalizes the confidence to express imaginative responses.

CLAMDiggers’ Format

CLAMDiggers' Format-Canva
CLAMDiggers’ Format-Canva

This labor of love of mine is assembled into seasonal / monthly / weekly collections (Summer, too) and formatted to correspond with educational guidelines. Each session includes:

 An  Introduction with an Instructional Sequence

The Unit’s Introductory Overview includes a suggested Instructional Sequence for integrating the fiction and nonfiction, Thematic Literature, grade-level  trade books listed  with the Haptic Activities included.

Master Materials & Literature Books Lists

The Unit’s Master Materials List is a complete inventory of each Activity’s necessary supplies for completion. Substitution ideas are, also, included. The Unit’s Thematic Literature List is compiled of titles I successfully used in the classroom. Children predictably and positively responded to these 10-12  reads. There are spaces for you to lists your choices as well.

A Lesson Plan with Curriculum Objectives

Each Lesson Plan generally focuses on  ideas for utilizing a variety of Comprehension Elements within the Literature reads. It, also, provides the Objectives the specific session will address. These Curriculum guidelines are designated in abbreviations: LA (Language Arts), MTH (Math), SS (Social Studies), SC (Science), HLTH (Health), A (Art), M (Music) & PE (Physical Education). The Activities/Projects are listed as well.

Activities/Projects with Directions, Illustrations, Templates & Extensions

Directions for the Activity or Project have been sequentially tested for understanding. I know how LITERAL  children can be, especially with Hands-On tasks. Some illustrations and templates may be included for, hopefully, easier modelling and tracer accessibility. Extension ideas at the conclusion of each Activity/Project will give you and your child more possibilities for enrichment.

Seasonal & Monthly Studies

CLAMDiggers' Invitation for Study--Atlantamomoffive
CLAMDiggers’ Invitation for Study-Atlantamomoffive

Each Seasonal collection of Literature Study & Activity/Project options includes opportunities to:

  • celebrate Nature’s seasonal changes
  • investigate weather patterns
  • observe the sky’s phenomena
  • explore a variety of animals
  • discover plant-life

Monthly Units have a collection of mini- poetry posters to introduce a focus on the content of the different lessons within each weekly session. They may include connections to:

  • celebrate holidays & special occasions
  • examine historical events
  • research social environments
  • create plays & games
  • apply critical thinking skills for problem solving
  • use imagination for expression

Here’s Condensed Contents List of the CLAMDiggers’ Seasonal & Monthly Main Ideas:

JANUARY: Nature in Winter/Snow/Civil Rights/Hibernation

FEBRUARY: Asian New Year/Valentines/Friendship/US Presidents

MARCH: Dr Seuss & Imagination/Windy Weather/A Wee Bit O’ Green/Spring Into Spring/Humor

 APRIL: Fairy Tales/Clouds & Rain/Earth Day Everyday/Arbor Day: A Celebration of Trees

 MAY: Mothers’ Day/Baby Animals/Bicycles & Safety/Neighbors in the Neighborhood/Let’s Have a Picnic 

JUNE: The Sun/Fathers’ Day/Backyard Summer Fun/Going on Vacation

JULY: Independence Day/Summer Nights: Moon & Stars/Tall Tales & Legends/Fun in the Water: Oceans, Lakes & Rivers 

AUGUST: Spotlight/Insects/I’m Bored ! Daydreams & Mysteries/ Inventions: Machines & Robotics

 SEPTEMBER: A Community of Helpers/Back to School/ Grandparents/Autumn Comes/A Bushel Of Apples 

OCTOBER: We Love Pets !/Old World Explorations/Nutrition Guide/ Boos & Hisses ! It’s Halloween! 

NOVEMBER: Autumn Fantasy/Then & Now/Native Americans/ Giving Thanks 

DECEMBER: An Early American Christmas/Oh! Christmas Tree!/ Santa & His Reindeer/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year

Weekly Unit Components

Weekly Literature-Canva
Weekly Literature-Canva

Each weekly unit, or session includes the following components:

  • front & back covers
  • a contents list
  • introductory sequence overview
  • master materials activities list
  • thematic literature book list
  • lesson plan
  • one-four activities with sequential instructions & extension ideas

Crafts, Literature & More

Crafts, Literature & More-Hermann
Crafts, Literature & More-Hermann

You can utilize CLAMDiggers’ enrichment program in a variety of ways:

  • a Home-School enrichment program
  • an hour after-school club session introduced with a teacher-read trade book and guided activity
  • a several hours mini “workshop” with your child or several children partner-reading several trade books, electing a teacher-read book and producing activity (ies)
  • an on-going classroom, thematic DEAR with an independent and/or partner-student read, promoting a book-share, a teacher-read encouraging comprehension and culminating in project production with usage for evaluation
  • center-based tasks to include student-generated comprehension assessments in conjunction with activity production
  • cooperative group preparation of book and project presentation
  • multi-grade level student partnerships for book-shares and activity production
  • extra-credit or homework assignments to encourage parental involvement

Laminating a pocketed folder with brads or providing a notebook with dividers will help your child or children keep lessons and materials organized. A permanent black marker will enable them to title the cover.   

Book Reviews & Comprehension activities with Project Directions can be part of the folder’s contents.

Encourage your students to anecdote the Directions with questions & thoughts.  It will help generate Critical Thinking and, hopefully, facilitate Brainstorming and Creativity for Extension Activities .

CLAMDiggers’ Access

Whether selecting a few weekly units individually and/or a monthly bundle (which will include a 30-page booklet of Graphic Organizers for Reading Comprehension, Brainstorming & Writing), CLAMDiggers’ enrichment program for Upper Elementary Learners will be available ~hopefully~ for purchase on Mz. Bizzy Lizzy Biz’s Teachers Pay Teachers Shop several weeks before the Month’s due date. September’s Monthly/Weekly Units are first. Access to the Monthly Poetry Posters will be in the Shop as well. Here’s the link to my Shop:

A Few CLAMDiggers’ Thank You Freebies

I hope this literature-based, Literacy enrichment program has caught your interest. Here are a few 10-page Freebies I created to show my appreciation. Just click on the links to open these PDFs:

A Home Reading and Writing Guide

Let Me Show You What I Learned-AltAssess

As a parent-teacher and/or classroom teacher of children, ages 8-11, I know you and yours will find these Units engaging and fun. I would love to hear from you.

Questions? Concerns? Shares?

Just fill in the Contact Me form below. You will NOT be subscribing. 

Otherwise, fill in the BLB Exclusive form as a FREE subscriber!






Choosing A School for Your Kindergartner : Learning & Teaching Styles

This is Part Three of Your Family’s Literacy Circle Kindergarten Series

Preparing your 5-year-old for Kindergarten can be a daunting task. There are so many questions and concerns parents have regarding the  groundwork needed for your child to enter in this totally new learning environment. Academic & social skill abilities usually top the list of worries. 

Is my child really ready to enter Kindergarten?!?

ACT THREE: Learning & Teaching Styles

When one teaches, two learn. ~ Robert Heinlein

Hopefully, this post will address some of your concerns. It explores the different Learning Styles of your child as well as the variety of Teaching Styles available to help you & yours decide on the best learning environment for your Kindergartner.

Your Five-Year-Old Wonder Child

Choosing a School for Your KindergartnerRemember last year…around 12 months ago… when your child was 4?  Toddlerland  was in the distance with fewer & fewer bouts of frustration….S/he was building  & planning & talking about it….a lot, but, still experienced some….well, you know.

Did you notice the closer s/he came to his/her 5th birthday, some pretty big changes were beginning to occur? Or should I say evolve? Like a larger understanding & speaking vocabulary? Completing tasks without being told and, maybe, in a “different” way? Longer focus & concentration? Some serious debating going on?

 Hmmm… let’s see what else you’ve observed in this young child, who is now only a baby to you and anyone else your age….

Does your child:

  • show eagerness to learn new things?
  • like to solve problems & puzzles in creative ways?
  • use her/his imagination when doing most activities?
  • ask a lot of  “analytical ” questions?
  • consider a variety of options before making a decision?
  • enjoy challenges that require “long-term” thinking?
  • like to participate in a variety of new experiences?
  • prefer activities that involve other children?

S/he is DEFINITELY a 5-year-old, bursting with exuberant enthusiasm and an abundance of creativity.

Kind of….weird…and oh, so, refreshing…Not that this stage of growth & development doesn’t come with its own set of challenges…. But you got this! Your parenting teaching skills are preparing for this next HUGE adventure…..

I Got This, You Say ????

If your child is displaying some, if not all, of those above mentioned characteristics, here are some of the learning skills with confidence building blocks you have successfully and diligently put into play:

  • given her/him chances to make simple choices
  • helped him/her complete something new without too much interference
  • fostered creativity with new experiences with tools & adventures
  • exhibited patience during your child’s activity involvements
  • recognized her/his achievements
  • encouraged his/her progress

PBS Parents’ Child Development Tracker/Approaches to Learning offers a more in-depth study of your 5-year-old’s growth in these areas. Click on the link below:

Need a few more ideas? Check out my 10 Amazing, Info-Packed Websites for Parenting & Child Development in the BLB Resource Library. Just click on the link below:

Your Child’s Learning Style

5 Senses Learning-Caroline Hernandez

I recently (today) read an article in my daily feed regarding people’s learning styles. It was debunking the theory, stating there was no significant data to support using this as a teaching tool ~ even though 90% of teachers continue to inventory their students as a basis for diversifying their lessons……

As an educator, I tried to design my lessons with the 3 major Learning Styles in mind. However, I found most Early & Primary students are Hands-On, or Kinesthetic, learners. Most students showed a preference for listening or seeing. Again, a lot of Visual learners.

Even as learning teachers going to workshops/ professional development seminars, we preferred “Make & Take” sessions instead of lectures with power points. The “hand-outs” served as our “hands-on” tools, which we used for…..

What IS My Child’s Learning Style ?

Anywho ~ there are numerous informal inventories you can do to help you “discover” your child’s Learning Style as you prepare for his/her “Going-To-Kindergarten” journey. Your observations are probably enough, but here are a few ideas I gathered from a variety of simple surveys:

My child learns best when:

  • watching someone else
  • listening to someone
  • touching or building

When in a new place, s/he :

  • notices the people & sights
  • listens to the new & different sounds
  • moves around a lot, wiggles & taps

While waiting somewhere, s/he:

  • looks around, reads or doodles
  • talks or listens to others
  • walks around, touching things

My child enjoys:

  • reading & drawing
  • talking & singing
  • running & building

When I read to him/her, s/he:

  • loves to point to & talk about the pictures
  • repeats the words I am saying
  • fidgets & squirms

S/he remembers things more easily when:

  • pictures are involved
  • verbal repetitions are made
  • movement is present

When my child writes or draws, s/he:

  • worries how it looks
  • talks to self
  • pushes hard on the pencil/crayon

S/he needs a learning environment that is:

  • free from clutter & lots of movement
  • free from a lot of noise
  • free from sitting still too long

Now, your child probably does ALL of these things at some time or another. Think in terms of “most of the time”.  First choice is a Visual Learner, second choice is an Auditory Learner & choice three is a Kinesthetic Learner.

Want a few more characteristics? Visit the link below for Dr. Molly Pennington’s 2015 article:

Does My Child’s Learning Style Equal Intelligence?

First of all ~ Major NO !

Explore & Discover-Dimitri Svetsikas
Explore & Discover-Dimitri Svetsikas

Intelligence is one’s ABILITY to learn, solve and/or create. Learning Style is the WAY one prefers to learn, solve and/or create. Some experts say these are “personality traits” instead of learning styles and intelligence. Your call. 

I think being aware of people’s “learning” preferences is an effective way to teach AND learn. I wonder if that’s a smart, er-intelligent way to approach life…..

As a matter of discussion, there are “multiple intelligences”, according to several experts.

In particular, Howard Gardner’s Frames of the Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence, states there are at least 7 (8, if you count Naturalistic).  SOOO, how about a Table of these “Smarts” & their characteristics?!?

Gardner's 8 Multiple Intelligences

Intelligence TypeThinking ProcessPreferencesLearning Tools
Word Smart: Verbal-Linguistic words & languageread, write, tell stories, speak other languagesbooks, writing tools, journals, word games, puns, tongue twisters, multimedia
Art Smart: Visual-Spatial images & spacedraw, paint, photography, sculpt, puppetry, daydreamart, mazes, puzzles, museums, maps, charts, diagrams, videos
Math Smart: Logical Mathematical
logic & reasoningnumbers, science, exploration, patterns, codespuzzles, investigations, experiments, mysteries, brain teasers, calculators, analogies, planetariums
Music Smart: Musical-Rhythmic
melodies & rhythmsing, whistle, hum, tap, listen to music, play an instrumentconcerts, multimedia, rhythm, rhyme, poetry, songs, recordings
Body Smart: Kinesthetic-Bodily
physical sensations & movementdance, run, jump, build, touch,role-play drama, athletics, tactile experiences, manipulatives
Nature Smart: Naturalist
connections with natureplants, animals,rocks, nature connections, outdoorsdata collection, exploration, classify natural objects, natural materials, growing things, animal care
People Smart: Interpersonal
social interactionsfriends, social events, discussions, interviews cooperative learning, board games, peer tutoring, clubs, group games, phones, multimedia, social networks
Self Smart: Intrapersonal
deep inside selfset goals, meditate, dream, quiet time, hobbies, reflection secret places, solo time, self-paced projects, journals, books, creative materials

PS Think you are smarter than you thought?!? Me, too!!!

Speaking of Brain Waves

Remember those Right & Left Brain choices discussed in “Our Brain” ?


There are a few strategies you can put in place to assist with your child’s learning skills. You may need to mix it up depending on the subjects s/he is trying to understand.

Left Brain Needs

  • a quiet, well-lit space with an individual desk
  • structured, independent work
  • step-by-step with exact details
  • some assistance with defining Main Ideas & Inferences

Right Brain Needs

  • a softly-lit group work space
  • open-ended, group work
  • graphic organizers
  • manipulatives & experimentation

And there are a FEW things your 5-year-old needs to know how to do before entering a Kindergarten classroom that have little to do with his/her smarts…..

Ready (or Not) for Kindergarten Class

You don’t remember the times your parent held your handle bars. You remember the day s/he let go. ~ Lenore Skenazy

Creativity Tools-Mike Fox

If you enter “Kindergarten Readiness Skills” in a search engine, you will receive a LOT of responses. My advice ~ choose one written by a Kindergarten teacher. S/he not only is a voice of experience, but tips & strategies will, also,  be included on how to fill in some gaps your child may have before the BIG day.

So, some of the lists are quite lengthy…. lists 10 Kindergarten Readiness Skills with some tips & strategies.  I’ve combined it with other ideas, which you can access in the BLB Resource Library. Just click on the link below for Kindergarten Readiness Skills: A Parent & Child Checklist:

In addition to a healthy number of Literacy skills your 5-year-old needs in preparation for Kindergarten, s/he will be, well, bombarded with a KAZILLION classroom & school routines.  To be fair, these can change according to school district policy, campus policy and/or teacher preferences. 

Karen Jones, an elementary educator with 12 years experience & a parent came up with this lengthy, but accurate inventory of “Routines & Procedures”. Sit down with a snack & a tall drink while you check out this list…..

Ready For Kindergarten ?

One of the most popular  Primary classroom activities with children is the Daily Calendar. Students gather as a group around a colorful board to interactively participate while learning some  life skill concepts, such as time, weather & vocabulary. I have created one for you & yours ~ My Calendar Corner ~ in BLB’s Shop. Just click on the link below & let me know what you think:

How to Choose A School for Your Kindergartner

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see. ~ Alexandra K. Trenfor

Playscape- Noah Hurricane
Playscape- Noah Hurricane

As your child’s first teacher, you are very aware of how s/he learns, successfully. Kindergarten is a critical year and can set the stage for many years to come. Expectations & curriculum may vary with school/district policy, but most schools, regardless of classification, want your child reading, writing & problem solving with math computations before entering First Grade.

Here are a few of the  10 Factors to consider when selecting a school for your child, according to publicschoolreviews/2017:

Finding a Good Fit

  • Will the school provide a specific, rigorous course of study ?
  • Will the school accommodate my child’s learning style and/or special needs ?
  • What is the level of social contact with peers ?
  • How do scheduling & extracurricular activities fit with our family’s ?

Choosing a Focus

  • Does the school offer a second language study ?
  • Does the school offer opportunities in the Fine and/or Performing Arts ?
  • How important is Science & Math ?
  • Is new & innovative Technology used as part of the curriculum ?

 Looking At Basic Campus Effectiveness

  • High expectations
  • Great teachers & staff
  • Engaged, visible children
  • Rigorous curriculum
  • Active parent participation

Visiting the School

  • Meet teachers, staff & principal
  • Talk to other parents & students
  • Check out a PTA meeting
  • Ask questions

Have A Few More Questions ?

Speaking of questions, has an article, “Four Steps to Selecting a School for Your Child”, written by the US Department of Education & other websites offering an EXTENSIVE list of questions to address your concerns. You can even download a booklet. Connect with the link below:

So, What Are the Choices ?

Free Play-Jessica Tootoo
Free Play-Jessica Tootoo

There are lots of options including Homeschools, Private Schools & Online Public Schools. The options I will offer in this post are Neighborhood Public Schools & Alternative, or Non-Traditional Schools, which can be considered private.

As an parent & educator, I found the regular availability of Free Play, or Recess was just as important to learning as Nutrition & Academics. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as other studies, children, who had indoor or outdoor Free Play/Recess as a regular part of their school day:

  • were more attentive & more productive in the classroom
  • developed the thinking skills that are positively linked to learning & academic performance
  • created fantasies to help them cope with difficult situations
  • provided stress-relief

There are several types of Neighborhood Public Schools to consider:

  • the one around the corner or across the street from your home that your child(ren) can walk or ride their bikes to
  • a Charter School that may offer an unique, smaller class-size, learning environment and are free from  many traditional public school regulations
  • a Magnet School that exists outside of “zoned school boundaries”, but is part of the local public school system with alternative methods of instruction

Read below for several other  Alternative Schools with unique approaches to educating minds.

Is A Non~Traditional School Right for My Child ?

Several effective methods of teaching do NOT include lectures, homework, report cards or formal assessments. I have only listed these 3 : Montessori, Steiner,  and Reggio Emilia, but there are more.


The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn. ~ Maria Montessori, M.D.

  • Children select learning activities independently each day.
  • Learning tools are tactile.
  • Teachers observe, not direct.
  • Classes  are grouped for 3-year movement.
  • Methods are usually found in preschool & elementary schools.
  • Several hundred US public schools utilize Montessori practices.

You can learn more by clicking on the link below:



The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility – these three forces are the very nerve of education. ~ Rudolf Steiner, founder

  • Children are prepared for “living”, emphasizing creative expression with social & spiritual values .
  • Learning tools are :(4-6) sensory-based, (7-14) creativity-based, (15-18) structure & social-based.
  • Teacher & curriculum- directed.
  • Classes  are grouped for 7-year movement.
  • Methods are found in K-12 Waldorf schools.
  • There are eight hundred Waldorf schools internationally.

You can learn more by clicking on the link below:


Reggio Emilia

Children need the freedom to appreciate the infinite resources of their hands, their eyes and their ears, the resources of forms, materials, sounds and colors. ~ Loris Malaguzzi, founder 

  • Children self-direct a variety of creative projects.
  • Learning tools are art & discovery-based.
  • Teachers guide, not instruct, without set lesson plans.
  • Classrooms mimic home environments.
  • Methods are used for teaching children ages 3-6 .
  • Schools all over the world utilize this inquiry-based practice.

You can learn more by clicking on the link below:

Need More Educational Options Info ?

There are other traditional & non-traditional school options available for you to think about. Educational World. com can help you with this.

Click on the link below for multiple articles, reviews, resources & links regarding teaching approaches, philosophies & practices:

You, Your Child & School

Kindergarten School-HPGuesen
Kindergarten School-HPGuesen

As an educator in Primary & Intermediate classrooms, I discovered one of the most important ways to ensure a student’s success was the parent’s involvement with his/her child’s school activities & academic engagement. Putting habits and expectations in place during  this first year will lay the foundation for self-motivation and responsibility in the future (until adolescence…..). You will see a resurgence, usually, during Senior-itis & college, hopefully.

Your child will benefit by your involvement in his/her education at school. Send him/her ready for school by:

  • Making sure s/he is well-fed & rested
  • Checking s/he is dressed appropriately
  • Has the necessary school supplies
  • Has completed homework and/or projects

I created a mini~picture “Ready For School” poster help your Kindergartner each school morning & evening before. Post it at eye level in your child’s room or by the front door. Click on the link below to print the PDF:

K Ready for School Pic-List

Parent Involvement Strategies

Tiffani Chin, PhD, the founder of EdBoost & author of School Sense, suggests several  general strategies for parents to follow when becoming involved in your child’s education in school:

  The School

  • attend school events, like “Meet the Teacher”, Open House, festivals & fairs
  • visit the website
  • talk with teachers, counselors, administrators & staff
  • volunteer

School Is A Priority

  • check the backpack every day for school notes & correspondence
  • help with homework
  • visit your neighborhood library
  • attend educational events & places
  • go to conferences

Partner with The Teachers

  • ask how to help your child
  • voice your concerns about your child performance & behaviors
  • listen carefully & follow the advice
  • respond to notes, emails and/or phone calls
  • show you appreciate their efforts

The relationship between you, your child & school is best expressed as one of teamwork. Strengthening this bond tells your child his/her “work on the job” is important, meaningful & necessary.

Remember to keep the Family Literacy Circle alive & well as your child’s First classroom.  Read Your Educational Home Environment in BLB’s Resource Library by clicking on the link below:

So, How Was Your Day At School ?

In spite of my child “doing nothing” at school everyday (because I always asked) for 12 years, or let’s just say the last 8 years of K~HS, he was able to graduate from college with honors and go on to graduate school…..

Fear not, Liz Evans @simplesimon&company offers some creative,  answerable questions  to ask your child each day after school. Click on the link below:

 AND… if and when Homework is involved……I created a a read with some Parent Involvement Strategies in Your Homework Help HOTLINE,  available in BLB’s Resource Library. Just click on the link below:


I hope this post has been helpful to you. These decisions can cause anxiety with some sleeplessness……

Let me know if you have any questions, concerns and/or additions you would like to see. Just fill in the Contact Me form below……(and she’s still talking…..). You will NOT be subscribing. 

Otherwise, fill in the BLB Exclusive form as a FREE subscriber!



Upgrading The FLC with Your Second Grader’s Research Project Skills

Upgrading The Family Literacy Circle with Your Second Grader’s Research Project Skills

Within the first few weeks of school, I’m sure you (and your Second Grader) tried not to be too overwhelmed by :

  • the amount of content in ALL subject areas being covered ~ ALREADY!?!
  • the amount of Homework being given ~ where’s that WEEKLY checklist?!?
  • the amount of classroom expectations with their accountability ~ REALLY!?!
  • the amount of changes your child seems to be going through ~ QUICKLY!?!

With you  celebrating these changes with your seven-year-old, s/he will be preparing to embrace an even bigger change in what your young Scholar will achieve ~ the successful completion of…. THE RESEARCH PROJECT!!!

This is Part Three :

Upgrading the FLC with Your Second Grader’s Research Skills

Your Second Grade Scholar

The potential possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all creation. ~ Ray L Wilbur

By now you & yours have created a “work-space” for getting those academics done. Homework has been coming home for most students since Kindergarten, even if it was just reading together for minutes every night and a weekly spelling list and, oh yeah, some math problems…..

Yes, the Homework load will definitely increase, following your district’s guidelines for Second Grade. It should be a review of content to be done independently by your child. It will, usually, include independent reading for a certain amount of  time with a  a few sentences about comprehension to be written, a weekly spelling list with a daily study activity, and a few math computations with a word problem or two to solve. S/he should be able to complete these assignments independently in under 30 minutes, including the read time…. Issues?

Maybe BLB’s Homework Hotline Resource can help:

Until…’s time for the Research Project, but that’s in the future (and not so distant…)

So…. your BIG Second Grader may be ready to move away from the kitchen table and into a more private, “serious ” study space. It may require some research….

A Private Study Space of My Own

I came across a helpful little article, “Quick Study” by Caylin Harris in the September 2017 edition of FAMILY CIRCLE. She collected some ideas from Amanda Titchenal, Leslie Josel & Kate Varness and offers these suggestions:

  • Make the creation & design a “joint effort”. The sense of ownership will encourage use & maintenance of the work-space.
  • Choose furniture with the flexibility to “grow” with your child, physically & aesthetically.
  • Keep going through that “Goes Home” folder together. Is there a separate Homework folder? They may be color-coded.
  • Music ? Yes/No ? Some types of music is actually beneficial for studying. Check out what moves, motivates or distracts your child’s focus & concentration. Headphones ? Maybe not….
  • Use organizational boxes, bins & racks. Have your child label them. I used dividers in drawers for easy, quick access to tools & materials. Not a fan of Junk drawers, myself…..
  • Open shelving on pegboard allows for easy access & visual organization. Big fan of that option especially in a closed space.
  • Make sure a Celebration Board is part of the work-space ~ cork, magnetic, plexiglass with ribbon.

Don’t really have space for a work-space?

A Home Project….and Some Research

Actually, you do. Josel suggests making a tri-fold privacy shield out of a presentation board. It does need to stand on its own and the height may need a trim.  Your child can decorate & stick on pockets for organizing. When the shield has done its work,  your child can fold it up and slide it under the bed, beside a chest of drawers or inside the closet.

Setting up a Home Learning Environment can be  challenging, especially if space is limited and other “stuff” is taking up space ~ DO NOT get rid of the dishwasher…. This BLB Resource may have some helpful ideas for you & yours:

You know your child has not only been engaged in research at school since Kindergarten, but, s/he has, also, been conducting informal Research Projects at home. They may be totally verbal, but…”Here’s why we need a dog..”; “There’s tons of stuff to do at….”; “I really need to join….”~ to mention a very few…

Collecting and ~ yes ~ writing down the information is an entirely different “project”. So, I thought I would create a few  Family Fun Home~Grown Project Templates with an idea list : Home Research Projects

Of course,  you  obviously are an important partner for developing those Critical Thinking Skills your child so readily uses to “present” a potential Family Research Project…

The “Brainiac” Project

Growing Those Critical Thinking Skills-Sulaco229
Growing Those Critical Thinking Skills-Sulaco229

The braininess of your young Scholar is really beginning to “present” itself. If you’re unsure, click on this Resource to confirm his/her state of mind:

And it’s only going to increase in growth & complexity…

There are 4 Big areas you can  continue to help develop your child’s cognitive skills:


  • Improves descriptions
  • Increases meaning & comprehension with details

Spatial Thinking

  • Defines shape characteristics: same/different, sequences/patterns, classifications into groups
  • Uses directional & positional words with increasing accuracy

Verbal Thinking

  • Shares picture descriptions with greater detail, using part to whole
  • Selects living & nonliving things with similarities & differences
  • Orders living & nonliving things into a sequence by characteristics
  • Classifies living & nonliving things by traits or characteristics

Academic Vocabulary

  • Understands subject-specific words that describe, classify & compare/contrast
  • Begins to apply or use subject-specific vocabulary during verbal & written explanations of key concepts

Academic Vocabulary development can be a tricky, if not confusing area to address. BLB Shop has a product with games & activities  to help understand and use these words in Second Grade :

And speaking of Academic Vocabulary, did you know there are 4 types of Knowledge & 6 Cognitive Processes (Bloom’s Taxonomy ~ remember him…) !?!

Yes…There Are 6 Levels of Thinking within Those 4 Kinds of Knowledge…

And now for some 25-cent words to include in this SHORT explanation of Knowledge & Thinking… which, believe it or not, your Second Grader is already hearing in the classroom…



  • terminology (specific words/vocabulary)
  • specific details & elements


  • classifications & categories
  • principles & generalizations
  • theories, models & structures


  • subject’s specific skills & algorithms (rules of process)
  • subject’s specific techniques & methods
  • criteria for determining when to use appropriate procedures


  • strategic (careful design/plan)
  • appropriate cognitive tasks
  • self-knowledge


RememberListDescribeTabulateAppropriate Use

Again ~ not only does your young Scholar understand many of this “terminology”, but s/he will, also,  be  (if not already) using this Knowledge and Cognitive Thinking Skills during the Research Project Process. UH HUH!!!

Need a bit more info ? Click on the link below:

There are a few things you can do at home to help build the skills s/he needs to successfully & accurately produce a Research Project.

Home ~ Grown Research Project Prep

You can not open a book without learning something. ~Confucius

Open Your Mind & Learn-DavidClode
Open Your Mind & Learn-DavidClode

You are probably already doing this if you and yours are Nonfiction book readers ~ you have taught your child the value of learning how to use Informational Text Features like: the Table of Contents, the Glossary, Captions under images, Labels, Diagrams, Bold & Colored Print, etc.

Informational Text Features Infographic
Informational Text Features Infographic

Second Graders learn how to use at least 17 of these helpful clues when trying to understand and discover which pieces of information will be necessary to include in the Research of a Topic. Here’s a little workbook you can use for reviewing and/or reteaching these all important Research Skills:

I Understand Informational Text Features

I, also, painstakingly, created a fun and very concise Literacy Learning Tool for teaching Informational Text Features that includes an interactive Nonfiction book I wrote ~ THE TINY GIANT: A True Story About Watermelons~ with a mini comprehension workbook. Here is the BLB Shop link:

An Informational Text Features Mini ~ Lesson

What Kind of Crab Is This?-Bmewett
What Kind of Crab Is This?-Bmewett

Your beach-loving boy has just caught a crab of some kind. A nonfiction book about Ocean Animals needs to be found because he needs to know EVERYTHING about this small, interesting creature. Wherever you decide to look for a book, it needs to have the right information. “So, where’s the first place you should look in the book?” you ask your eager learner.

He quickly opens to the Table of Contents, but doesn’t want to read that much yet. “Where else could you find what you’re looking for ?” If he doesn’t know about the Index ~ here’s your teaching moment~ and “SO, you know you want to find out about…” “A crab!” he exclaims. “Look! Here it is on page…!” Well, it’s a Section with all the different crabs found in the ocean. Guess, he’ll have to do a little more……research.

If there are pictures of different crabs, encourage him to study the photo and think about what he already knows. Then, it’s time to read the Caption underneath it to see if this crab could be the same, or a similar one. Is there a Map or some other Location image ? Ask your child to look for them.

Kind of like a Treasure Hunt, huh!?!

These interactive questions mirror how your Second Grader is learning how to use Informational Text Features in the classroom.

The Teacher ~ Parent Connection

Have you connected with your child’s school and the teachers ? We Are Teachers created a short PDF loaded with tips and ideas regarding the relationship between you, your child & school. Just click on the link:

Classroom Research Project Sequence

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. ~ Socrates

Although author and book studies can be part of a Research Topic, Geography, Social Studies & Science are heavy hitters in this category.

The “I Wonder…” phase of the Inquiry is usually begun in a KQRL template. Here’s an example  : KQRL Template

Your Scholar is participating in a monthly Research Project which usually begins as a whole class lesson presented in sequential mini-lessons. Peer editing is usually part of this Process with a final, strongly visual Presentation piece, such as a flyer, poster, or even a sculpture.

His/her teacher may assign cooperative groups of 3-4 classmates a variety of Topics for them to discuss and, then decide on a specific Topic Question / Sentence.

A partner Project may be next with an independent Project as a cumulative study towards the end of the year. One, or several may be given periodically as an ongoing homework task with a deadline schedule for the different parts of Project research until its  Presentation due date. 

The Topic usually starts out BIG : Animals to a Smaller Topic: Birds to a specific, simple Topic: The Life Cycle of a Robin.

Possible Second Grade Science Topics

Leaf Study-Stocksnap
Leaf Study-Stocksnap

These Topics may, also, be part of a Science Fair Project ~ again, Big to Small to Specific:

  • Animals: traits & characteristics as in diet, habitat, seasons, life cycle
  • Habitats : plants, animals & land-forms of ocean, forest, desert, tundra
  • Earth : properties & characteristics of rocks, soil, waterways, land-forms
  • Weather : characteristics of the seasons, elements, extremes
  • Human Body Systems : nervous, digestive, muscular & skeletal
  • Matter: properties & states of solids, liquids & gases
  • Forces: properties & management of electricity & magnetism

BLB Shop has 4 Science Labs: Physical, Earth, Life & Ecology to help you and your young Scientist explore these Topics:

Social Studies & Geography Topics are next.

Possible Social Studies & Geography Topics

WWhere Oh Where ? BenKerckx
Where Oh Where ? BenKerckx

Here are some Social Studies & Geography curriculum objectives that may be explored during this Second Grade year :

  • Maps & Globes : identify geographic features
  • Communities : explore the different helpers, careers, goods & services
  • Governments : discuss purpose, elections, laws &  differences of local, state & federal levels
  • Historical Figures : impacts, contributions & biographies
  • America : history, customs & celebrations

You can check out my previous Second Grade post on Second Grade Celebrations for some ideas :

Need a few  mini-lessons on Community Helpers, USA Symbols & USA Celebrations ? Click on these links :

Community Helpers

USA Mini Lessons

15 USA Holidays

Finally, BLB Library has a  Nonfiction Independent Reads Book List as a Resource for these 3 subject areas to assist your Second Grade Scholar with her/his Research :

And now, for the Feature Presentation ~the actual Research Project Process with its steps & expectations…..

The Research Project Process

Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children. ~ Walt Disney


Many school districts, including several of the ones I taught in, use the The Big 6 Research Model developed by Mike Eisenberg & Bob Berkowitz in 1987.

This Information Literacy Research Method continues to be used throughout the world because of its grade level & subject versatility.

This Research Model :

  • provides a plan for engaging students in the learning experiences of problem solving and critical thinking
  • helps them evaluate which pieces of information  will  answer the specifically defined Topic Question/Sentence
  • encourages students to create ideas for unique products or presentations of their research.

Many Primary educators adapt the Big 6 sequence into the Super 3, which provides students with the same basic elements using a simpler vocabulary.

Here’s a mock-up table comparing the 2 methods :

Task Definition : What am I supposed to do & what information do I need?Plan: What am I supposed to do ?
Information Seeking Strategies: What sources will I used to help me find this information ?Plan : What do I need to find out ?
Location & Access : Where can I find these resources & who can help me find them ?Do : How do I find what I need to complete the task ?
Use of Information : How will I record the information I find ?Do : What can I make to show what I have learned ?
Synthesis : How will I show what I have found & stay organized in a timely manner ?Review : Did I do what I was supposed to do ?
Evaluation : I will know I have done my best & use an editing checklist to be sure.Review : Did I do my best work or do I need to do something else before I am done ?

Pitt County Schools in North Carolina offers a 35-page, thorough, parent-friendly explanation of these 2 methods in a PDF.

BLB Library, also, has a Resource for  understanding the Inquiry Investigation Process:

And, if you need an easy-to-use, step-by-step Instruction Handbook with Templates & Reference Checklists for The Research Project AND The Science Fair Project, you can find this Guide in BLB’s Shop. Just click on the link below :

About That Science Fair Project…..

Need specific Science Fair Project info ? This site, Science Kids, offers grade level ideas with a help-guide for using the Scientific Method:

Speaking of a help-guide….

Dear Parents of Project Researchers……

Oh Yay! A Research Project !-White77
Oh Yay! A Research Project !-White77

As a parent and educator, it’s really difficult for me to know where to “draw the assistance line” .

There are so many “variables” to consider when your child, especially your Second Grader, comes home with The Project to complete.

So, again, I did some research, and, I think I found a few pieces of sound advice to share with you.

Diane Divecha of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence defines too much help basically tells your child s/he is not capable of doing the work. Instead, she recommends support your child by helping him/her develop the skills to do the projects independently with experiencing the stress  big projects can bring.

The Advice…..

  • Teach those organizational skills needed for effectively completing all the parts of a Research Project ~ to-do list, materials list, task schedule
  • Show how time management can help make the Project advance more efficiently, even if it means s/he needs to modify some of the product.
  • Review, if necessary, how to use some of the tools, materials & supplies.
  • Act as a sounding board for ideas and a discussion resource to encourage your child’s ownership of his/her work efforts. 

I’m sure you’re not surprised by the length of this post, but there was a lot of ground to cover….Believe me ~ I did the Research…

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