How Do You Help Kids Research a Topic and Build Knowledge in Depth, Whether They’re In the Classroom or Learning Remotely?

Monday, January 11 - Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Institute will be offered virtually through Zoom.

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Grade: 3-5
Hours: 11am-5pm Eastern Standard Time
Featuring: Emily Butler Smith, Katie Clements, and Mike Ochs
Payment: Purchase orders for this institute can be made out to: Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, 525 W 120th Street, Box 77, New York, NY 10027

Imagine reading two books—one about teaching and the other about astrophysics. Which would you understand better? Our guess is that your comprehension of the teaching book would be sky high in comparison to the book on astrophysics. Why that should be when you’re probably applying the same set of strategies in both cases. The difference, of course, is knowledge—our comprehension is much stronger when we know more about a text’s topic. For this reason, researchers increasingly argue that knowledge building is an essential component of ELA instruction, and this institute is all about designing literacy-based lessons that help kids build deep knowledge in the content areas.

Part of the institute will focus on sharpening research skills of our kids, so that they can use reading and writing to build knowledge about a topic—whether that’s a shared class topic or one they’ve chosen for themselves. We’ll dig into the essential research skills kids need to succeed and the ways those skills develop across grade levels. We’ll introduce you to our newest thinking around note-taking, and examine evidence-based ways that note-taking can help kids determine importance, make sense of central ideas, and construct the concise summaries of texts that will bolster their long-term retention. As part of this, we’ll examine the special challenges of researching from videos and other multimedia sources and we’ll suggest strategies that can help. You’ll also learn how to help kids determine the point of view/perspective of their sources, assess their validity, and determine who to trust when two sources present conflicting information. Expect to try some of this work yourself and to learn ways to support this work across minilessons, small groups, and read alouds.

You’ll also hear about the power of text sets to help kids accumulate knowledge more rapidly. We’ll address ways you can curate text sets for student research and ways you can help groups of students work through these sets together in order to grow knowledge collaboratively. We’ll also explore some new ideas for shaping read alouds around multimedia text sets that enable kids to mimic the intellectual journey of an engaged adult reading about a high interest nonfiction topic and pausing to look up unknown references and terms as they go. As we explore the design and potential of text sets, we’ll also unpack strategies that scholars like Freddy Hiebert have developed for using these sets to accumulate vocabulary—and we’ll make sure you leave with a pocketful of powerful but simple tweaks for your teaching that will help kids collect key words more quickly and more intentionally.

This work will be most powerful for kids if it’s supported across the day and across classrooms, so what we present will be a toolkit you can apply to any subject, so that you can enable kids to use literacy skills to learn about social studies, science, math, music, art—you name it. We will also empower you to share this toolkit with colleagues who are subject-area specialists so that they, too, can keep this work going, even in a departmentalized structure. Get ready to grow your own knowledge about the ways that research, literacy, and topic expertise can intertwine to boost not only comprehension but intellectual


$650/$600 NYC DOE


This institute will be offered online, in real-time via Zoom, and will not be recorded for later distribution. We will accept attendees until the institute has reached capacity.