If your kid, like mine, wants to learn about a specific subject, here is what you can do. (One of my kids wants to learn about dinosaurs, so I will use that example.)
I do these steps without kids (under age 10):
1. Open internet browser. Search “dinosaur DK”. You will probably want dkfindout.com materials. Avoid urls that say “books” unless you want to buy the books; in regular times, I rely on libraries for these books.
2. Open internet browser. Search “dinosaurs Scholastic”. Some of these resources require a Scholastic subscription, and some are free right now for pandemic times. The website will tell you which. There are science and literacy tasks, videos, etc. When I taught elementary school, we would call this kind of topic “Theme” because we could teach science, history, reading, writing, and sometimes math while investigating one topic.
I would recommend buying a Scholastic Magazine subscription over buying a book because the magazine will have new material and many topics over the course of a year, unless the student is really into this one topic and will read the book over and over and over.
3. Age of child & content choices:
Scholastic’s website often gives a choice of content by grade level.
DK’s website dkfindout.com does not have a grade level listed, but I would recommend reading it aloud to children or letting them look at the pictures and ask questions. DK Readers books are marked as Level 1, Level 2, etc.
*For PreK and K, choose videos and/or PreK-K and 1st grade content (to read aloud to kids).
*For 1st and 2nd graders, choose videos or 1st-4th grade content (to read aloud to kids).
*For 3rd and 4th graders, choose videos or have them read 1st-4th grade Scholastic content or almost any DK content.
*For 5th grade and up, students should be able to read their own content from either website, DK or Scholastic.
I do these steps with kids:
1. Show them two different websites and ask them which they would like to use. They will probably end up reading both, but no need to force it.
2. Read aloud to them or offer to sit with them. Answer any reading questions they have; this is not a time that I coach or teach reading. If they would like me to read every word, I will.
If you would like to encourage writing tasks, keep reading. Otherwise, stop here. :)
3. Grades 2 and up, encourage student to write notes in their own words. For second graders, I would definitely offer to scribe for them — write exactly what they tell me to write. For students of any age with difficulty writing or for those who like to jump while dictating, I would scribe. Again, I want the student focusing on their ideas. I don’t want the physical act of writing to get in the way of their words at this stage. If you cannot help, consider a dictation software like Dragon ($$$) that can be used on a phone or tablet, or you can use Microsoft Word or OneNote for free.
4. For PreK-2nd grade, the student can make a video talking about what they learned and send it to someone special.
For grades 3 and up…
A. Take the students notes and help them group them by idea. The student can create a color code: For example, green is for eating, blue is for body facts, red is for habitat, yellow is for predators and other dangers, etc. On paper, they can draw a colorful dot next to the sentence. On a computer, if they used dictation, they can highlight the text with a color highlighter, or change the font color.
B. Now the student can cut out the different pieces of information, group them by color, and tape them together in the order they like. Think old-school notecards for writing essays. For grades 5+, ask the student to read everything aloud and add topic sentences and transition sentences. These will be added now, so more sentences will be taped in. If the student used a computer for dictation, I would do the cut and paste myself at the student’s direction.
C. Go through these notes and look for editing together: spelling, punctuation, capitals. I like to tell the student, “There are two edits in this sentence. Can you find them?” If they can’t find one, I give a hint: “It is a capitalization edit.” Make these edits now on the note paper.
D. Write a final draft, a neat version and make a cover/title page. This is the time for focusing on handwriting or typing. Ask the student what to include in a title page of a book. (The cover page will have a title, author’s name, and either a drawing or a photo print-out.)
E. The report can be stapled together or bound with yarn. You can either do three yarn loops with bows/knots, or you can do many different sewing ways. For sewing book binding, you will want four things: an embroidery/cross stitch needle, embroidery thread or yarn or dental floss, 3–4 paper/binder clips, and a sharp pokey object (like an awl) or a hole punch. This is one example on YouTube. There are many other ways to do the sewing as well if you have a different way you know, or if you would like to look at other videos.
F. Share the book with others on video chat, read it to each other at home, and enjoy!