Teaching Students How to Research

Welcome to part two all about teaching students how to research! If you missed part one, I talked specifically about animal research reports.

Today I want to share with you one of the ways I taught my 2nd grade students how to research. This method is great to use in any elementary classroom.

How a simple stack of index cards can transform research writing in your classroom

Teaching Students How to Research with the Envelope Method

Teaching students how to research can be difficult, so one way I’ve taught my students to do so is by using the envelope method. Important note: I model this with my students before they do this on their own!

How It Works:

First, collect 3-5 envelopes. On the outside of each envelope, we write one question. We write questions from the “What I Want to Know” section of our KWL chart. This also a great time to talk about the difference between open and closed questions.

research envelopes

Next, we start to read nonfiction books and articles about our animal. For online sources, I made QR codes that connected to websites like National Geographic Kids for my students to quickly access. We read to find information that answers the questions on our envelopes.

using research envelopes

As we find the answers to our questions, students write one fact on an index card and stick it inside the envelope. The goal is for students to fill each envelope with multiple index cards of information that answers their question.

Extending for Older Students

If your students are ready to take it a step further (3rd grade and above probably), you can have them keep a numbered list of the sources they use. As they research, they write the corresponding number for which source they used at the top of each index card. I did not do this with 2nd grade.

inside of research envelope

There are times where students can’t find information to fill their envelopes. Oftentimes we need to revise their question(s), and start again. It’s a great teachable moment!

Once students have filled their envelopes (I suggest at least 3-5 cards), we turn each envelope into a paragraph. In 2nd grade, students are expected to be able to write multiple paragraphs, so this was the perfect way to do it.

I model how to turn envelope questions into topic sentences for paragraphs. Then, we take all of our index cards out and turn them into the detail sentences for our paragraph!

Again, I ALWAYS model this with students! Everything I’ve shared in this blog post is probably at least a week’s worth of mini-lessons, if not more!

You might also like these elementary animal research booklets!

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Teaching students how to research using index cards and envelopes
Teaching students how to research using index cards and envelopes

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