Monday, June 9, 2014

Research Projects for Students with Autism

We just wrapped up a 2 week unit with my higher functioning students on “Research Projects.”  I wanted a functional topic for my students to research, so decided on community helpers.  I know they are only in 2-4 grade in this group, but it’s never to soon to start learning about different jobs and help students discover the areas where they have the most interests.  
I created a very structured unit (check it out on TPT here) for them since a research project involves a lot of steps and my students tend to complain of “too much work”…( the nerve!).  I tried to  break this unit down into manageable sized tasks and show them all the pieces so they didn’t get overwhelmed on a day to day basis.  After we completed each piece of the project, the kids checked off the activity.

We also utilized a rubric for grading this project.  So, before I introduced each activity, we would look over the rubric and discuss how many points were available and what the students had to do to earn those points.  When they finished the activity, we went over the rubric together to determine how many points they got.  I not only wrote in the point “score,” but also gave them that number of physical “points” in our token economy (see this post about our token economy).

We started with brainstorming community workers and then had each student pick a topic.  Then we filled out a KWL table (just the K and W sections).  This was really hard for my students.  They were able to fill in the K section where they needed to write in what they know.  However, they struggled to understand what to put in the W section (What do you WANT to know?).  They could form the questions on their own (yay!), but wanted to write questions they already KNEW the answer to.  I kept trying to encourage them to write questions they didn’t know the answer to.  I modeled a lot out loud about a different topic (i.e. “hmmm, I wonder if a garbage man has to plug his nose because the garbage truck is so stinky?).  I even tried modeling out loud on their topics.  Eventually we got there, but we took a couple breaks and came back to it as we were all feeling slightly frustrated.  Even though this was difficult because “what you don’t know” is more abstract, it is important to teach this type of inquiry behavior to our kids.  In the future, I hope to find more ways to target these skills regularly throughout the year.

Once our KWL charts were completed, we moved onto research.  The kids used some books on community helpers as well as the internet to find the answers to questions I had outlined for them.  For the TPT product, I created additional blank research pages where students could come up with their own questions, or just write down different facts they found.  After this, we created a web detailing which order the kids wanted to answer their research questions for their papers.  

The kids also drew a picture about their topic and were supposed to include details such as the clothes the community helper wears, the location they work in, the tools they use, etc.  

After I edited their paper with them, they were also responsible for typing their paper.  They had a lot of fun typing, picking font size, and printing their documents.

The culminating activity we did for this unit was our presentation.  We targeted 3 skills as a presenter (standing, talking loud/clear, looking at the audience) and 3 skills as an audience member (sitting quietly, listening, clapping when the presenter is finished).  At the end of each presentation, we decided as a group if the presenter received his points and if the audience members were on track to receive their points.  

Throughout this unit, we also kept track of new vocabulary words associated with a research project such as “source,” “topic,” “edit,” etc.  In my TPT unit, I have included vocabulary cards and definitions for these terms and more. 

I have posted this unit on Teachers Pay Teachers in case you are interested in trying it out with your students.  In my TPT product, I am including the editable documents as well as the PDF since I know people may want to individualize this project to their students’ individual needs.  Also, the only page that relates specifically to community helpers is the pages with research questions.  I have also included blanks of these pages, so you could use this product for research projects related to any topic (not just community helpers).

We had a great time with this unit and it was a great culminating activity to do near the end of the year, since we have been working all year on answering questions, writing complete sentences, sequencing our writing, using punctuation/capitalization, and reading fluently.  I also think that this would be a great adapted version of a research project done in the gen ed classrooms for your kids in inclusion settings to use since it provides our kids with structure and routine they need to be successful.

1 comment:

  1. This is great Hailey. I am going to purchase it to use with my resource students. You always do a great job and I find myself coming back to your blog when I need new ideas. Thanks again, Heather