January 14, 2009
“Whenever I want students to experience something new, I create what I refer to as a life lab. When it comes to trying a new book, conducting a science experiment, or doing a new activity of any sort, I explain to the students that we are doing research in a specific field. This research will help other people plan, write, or produce better information or products that will affect many people’s lives. For instance, when it comes to reading a new book, I explain to the students that we need to conduct proofreading research. We need to prove that the book meets or does not meet our reading requirements. We look at the book cover, read the preface/ introduction and Google information about the book.
"This is a great time to use your Smartboard (if you have one), so you can compile and print the exact information for each student. We then develop questions based on the information we reviewed. The students are responsible for reading the text, for responding to questions developed by the whole class, and for offering their personal opinion of the book, including their recommendation with an explanation for others to read or not read the book. They also include an evaluation of the vocabulary in the book, identifying words that are new to them, discussing the readability of the book based on age and grade level, talking about impressions of the cover, etc. My goal is not only for the students to read the book, but also to understand that by examining books in this manner, they can help authors and publishers produce books that are more engaging to them and their peers.
“When we are doing a new science experiment or physical activities, I will generally introduce the activity with a statement like, ‘according to the developers of this activity, you are suppose to learn ______. What we need to find out is if we can learn ______ and explain just how we gained knowledge it from completing this activity.’ Again, the students will develop research questions about the activity and know that I expect them to offer their true opinions regardless of the positivity or negativity they may feel about the entire process. The more I did this with my first and second graders, the more autonomous they became when I introduced new skills and strategies — students have begun to ask me if we will be researching or conducting a life lab.”