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Lesson Plan

Research Building Blocks: "Organize This!"

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Research Building Blocks: "Organize This!"

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time 60 minutes
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Instruction & Activities

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • create and use graphic organizers.

  • work with students to brainstorm category labels.

  • generate categories and subheadings.

  • sort note cards into categories or subheadings.

  • practice outlining skills.

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Instruction & Activities

The way in which the following example is used to “discover” outlines can be adapted to any research topic. Modeling a topic in which all the class is involved will demonstrate the step-by-step procedure that can then be applied later by small groups or individuals as they work on their own projects.

Research Topic: Beluga Whales

Big questions/Categories:

  1. What do Beluga whales look like? (Appearance)
  2. How do Beluga whales behave? (Behavior)
  3. Where do Beluga whales live? (Habitat)
  4. What do Beluga whales eat? (Food)


  1. Hand out the Example Outline Format and explain that students will be making sentence strips for their research topic.

  2. Model the activity by making a sentence strip and placing it on the board using the Beluga whale topic or one of your own choosing.

  3. Record each big question or category on a different colored sentence strip and place it on the board.

  4. Give members of the group or class colored sentence strips.

  5. Remind students to match the color of the sentence strip on which the fact is written to that of the big question (category) it is about, recording only ONE fact fragment (note) on each strip. These do not have to be complete sentences.

  6. Students bring their fact strips to the board and place them under the appropriate big question/category (same color strip) indenting them as in outline form.

  7. After all strips are placed on the board, the sequence of the notes under a big question/category may be changed to place similar facts together. This will help the facts flow once the students start writing.

  8. Add the appropriate Roman Numerals (categories) and letters (notes) to create an outline form. (See Sample Outline on the Beluga whale.)

  9. Remind the students that an outline highlights the essential information they want to include in their final product and helps organize their information. Modeling for students how to use an outline enables them to determine the sequence of their report. It is important for students to learn that they decide which information is most important for their readers to know at the beginning of the report, and to think about ways to make the report flow from section to section.

  10. Have students practice outlines for the research topics they are working on.

  11. Mini-lessons can be repeated for different topics until students become comfortable with the skill of outlining.

  12. If this method of outlining and organizing information is not appropriate for your students, other graphic organizers are available online.

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As this is only one step in teaching the research process, students need not be graded on the activity. Continued practice using outlines and other graphic organizers on different topics, with teacher and peer feedback on in-process and finished outlines, would best benefit the student researcher. Final outlines turned in with the research report could then be graded based on accurate information and logical organization.

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