My third grade daughter loves school and works hard.  She does well once she gets familiar with a task and understands the expectations, but new tasks are difficult for her.  At this time in the school year she has now been given a new task.  She has to write a report and is very excited  because she got to choose her own subject to write about, howler monkeys.  But she is having a real problem getting started.  The other night she started to cry when she started to think about beginning her report.  If you have any suggestions, or if any of your readers have any ideas, we would be so thankful. 

In keeping with developmental progress and abilities, most schools in the United States transition from learning basic literacy skills to higher level reading and writing skills in the third grade.  A research report is a very common grade three task.  Usually the classroom teacher will have a sheet stating expectations for the final project.  The directions should be carefully followed.  I am glad that your daughter was able to choose her own subject for her report.  Being invested in learning about the howler monkey will keep her motivated throughout her research.

 The most important part of a third grade research project is learning how to gather material and organize it into a cohesive report.  I have found that the following plan works for many students as they tackle their first adventure into research:

 1.  Gather research materials such as books, magazine articles, etc. on the subject from school and local libraries.  Note that there may only be a portion of a book that covers your subject, so you can look for chapters in books which cover broader subject areas such as rain forests or monkeys.  Of course the internet is a great source, so search websites for the exact subject.  This type search will lead you to your subject, even if it is only a small part of a site covering a broader area.  Print the information you may want to use, but if you are writing your report on your computer, save the pages as well so you can cut and paste if you want.  Be sure to credit sources and keep a running list of all books and websites that you use to find information as you will need it for a bibliography at the end of the project.  Even though grade three bibliographies are usually quite simple, be sure to record all of the information required by the teacher as it may be hard to backtrack in order to find the books and websites that you used. 

 2. As you work through your research materials, use post-its to mark pages with information, pictures and diagrams that you might want to use. 

 3. The next step is organizing your information. Get a large piece of oak tag or non-shiny poster board.  At the top write “Howler Monkey.”  Draw lines to divide the board into columns. At the top of each column write a topic that will be included in your report.  For example, an animal report might have: Physical Characteristics; Habitat (Where They Live); What They Eat; How They Live; Enemies, and; Other Interesting Facts.

 4. As you go through your research material, start filling in the chart with facts.  Put aside any books that do not provide any information.

 5. After going through all of your materials and having  gathered all of the facts, you are ready to write your report.

 6. Check the teacher’s assignment sheet to see if he or she wants any special format for the report.  If not, the following is a very common set-up.  Use the bold face print on your information chart as a heading for each part of your report.  Write a cohesive paragraph or two for each heading that includes all the information that you gathered.  Add any pictures or diagrams that you want to use.  Make a nice cover, and you are done.

 7. If your daughter  has to present the report to her class, a poster and index cards are often helpful. 

  If anyone out there has suggestions as to how this mom can support her daughter with this project, please comment.