As one example, 5th graders embarking on their culminating IBPYP exhibition project recently worked through a 'pre-search' phase. They chose 3 potential topics of greatest interest to them in relation to the central idea: 'Action impacts our community and our world.' Then they spent time locating and exploring resources before actually choosing a final topic. As a result, students not only expanded their background knowledge but also determined whether or not there were relevant and readable sources, and even eliminated some topics from their consideration.
Next students need to organize their thoughts and form meaningful research questions. It's important at this early stage of the process to consider what one already knows and what questions will drive the process forward. A concept map is one way to help students focus their thinking and make plans for research. This can be done in a whole group process with younger students or done more independently or collaboratively by older students. Both facts and questions are added, then organized and categorized on a concept map. This is essentially a graphic organizer with a web structure. The goal is for students to make meaningful connections among ideas and to recognize relationships or categories for the facts and questions they have gathered to this point. What are the things they'd like to know more about? How can these ideas be organized into a research plan?
When students have analyzed their concept map and developed questions, they are on their way to successful research. Goal-setting follows which includes refining questions, identifying sources and brainstorming key words for effective searches.
Concept Mapping Resources:
Students can use concept maps in a variety of other ways too. They can create them as part of pre-reading or pre-writing strategies. They can be used as thinking tools in content area reading across the curriculum as kids prioritize main ideas with supporting details and subtopics.
- Concept Map as Research Tool
- Concept Map as Pre-reading Strategy
- How to Create a Concept Map (ex. of more complex linking phrases and relationships)