Alternative Resources to Teach Research

What resources do you envision when you hear the word research? Like most people, it is probably books and websites. That is a surefire way to disengage students.

Sure. Many students will immerse themselves in books and websites when researching topics of interest. Others, not so much. For students who struggle with reading, they need alternative resources.

Keep the goal in mind: teach research skills. This is less about being able to read, and more about developing questions, citing sources, creating bibliographies, etc.

4 Alternative Resources to Teach Research

A surefire way to keep students engaged in the research process is to use alternative resources. Student favorites include experts, field trips, experiences, and ARVR.

Field Experts

Field experts had once been difficult to get ahold of. Even just 10 years ago. Technological advances have made it so much easier to connect with experts. With just an email and video conferencing experts are immediately on hand.

Try some of these tools to get experts to student researchers:

  • Flipgrid Explorer Series –> These are great because they also connect so well to science and social studies content.
  • Skype in the Classroom –> The kiddos loved hearing about animal research and conservation straight from Jane Goodall!
  • Twitter –> There are 2 ways to connect with experts on Twitter. One is to search for the expert and message them to request a visit. The other is to put out a request for potential guest speakers.

All 3 of these resources have been instrumental in supporting students during the research process. There really is nothing more powerful than learning about a topic from someone who works with and in it each day.

Field Trips

Field trips are a no-brainer way to help kiddos dig deeper into a research topic. They offer multi-sensory ways to experience a variety of topics. Some favorite field trips have included:

  • Visiting a recycling plant to learn about how recycling works.
  • Going to a quarry to see how rocks are mined.
  • Historical Villages are a great way to learn about a specific time period. Sturbridge Village was a favorite spot for grade 5, and Mystic Seaport was perfect for grade 4!
  • Museums are great to learn about a specific time period, place, culture, or species. Two of our favorites were the Pequot Museum and the CT Historical Museum.
  • Local historical societies are typically eager to offer field trips tailored to your historical needs.

Virtual Field Trip Options

Sometimes, field trips are just expensive, too far, or just don’t exist. Instead, opt for virtual field trips and fake field trips.

Fake Field Trips

Fake field trips are awesome. They just rely on a bit of creativity and research on your part. Create your own.

Third graders were researching local Native Americans. At that time, there were zero field trips available. We learned everything we could about them. From there, we created a script for ourselves as tour guides.

We headed out the door, and took the kiddos on a trip through the woods attached to our school and became their historical guide.

Also create your own fake field trips and virtual field trips with WebQuests, Escape Rooms, Blookets, Google Maps, and more.

Experiential Lessons

Experiential lessons are perfect for building background knowledge. This is a trick that I learned from my friend and mentor Dr. Curran. I learned from her how to turn abstract concepts and ideas into concrete hands on learning activities.

Some of our favorites included:

  • To understand industry, we recreated an assembly line for Hershey Kisses. Unifex cubes, aluminum foil, and tables were all we needed to put this into action.
  • We went whaling right in our classroom. Our chairs became the boat. We all donned rain gear. Support staff used spray bottles to mist us with water. Rulers were our harpoons.
  • Understanding adaptations can be difficult for students. Before researching different animal adaptations, students were provided with a hands on experience. We ‘removed’ our thumbs with masking tape and attempted every day tasks like drawing, tying our shoes, etc.

First, consider what students will be researching.

Second, think about how that topic, time, or place can be recreated to provide a first hand experience.

Augmented & Virtual Reality

Thanks to my friend and ARVR guru Jaime Donally, augmented and virtual reality have become a staple in teaching my kiddos research.

ARVR provides students with an immersive, hands on opportunity to learn deeply about topics.

I have written about using ARVR for research more in depth in a previous post. Check it out below.

Choosing Alternative Research Resources

There is no right or wrong way to choose alternative research resources. The key is choosing alternative resources with students in mind.