Sharing is Caring with our Youngest Learners: Bibliographies in the Lower School

Research in the Lower School in one word: kaleidoscope.

The range of skillsets, prior knowledge, teacher applications and expectations, and scope is wide and always shifting. One place where I can create consistency is in the writing of a bibliography. I apply a few basic principles in my teaching of this essential part of a complete research experience.

I. All Lower School students can appreciate the power of MINE, YOURS and OURS.

Figure 1 Venn diagram retrieved from Wikimedia.com

Developmentally, Lower School students can fully appreciate what belongs to whom. Giving credit to someone for their hard work is well in the grasp of our youngest learners. Bridging understanding from the physical book to the work that went into it by one or more authors can be compared to an art piece a student just completed, or a fiction story just written. All Lower School students can appreciate their own hard work! When we do research, we are using previously published material to create something of our own. We are borrowing the work of others. Writing the Bibliography as a part of the complete research experience is a great way to show sharing and caring for the work of the authors.

Figure 2 Overview image of hurricane retrieved from pexels.com

II. Do we really expect Lower School students to write bibliographies? You bet!

Ready to dive into the eye of the storm? Bibliographies contain the sorts of material that our youngest learners have little or no connection to other than TITLE and/or AUTHOR. The copyright page is nearly always in font sizes you need a magnifying glass to read, and is largely passed over in early reading experiences. As has been posted previously on the blog, teaching the vocabulary of a bibliography is a natural and necessary first step. I have made it a point to embed lessons that include awareness around AUTHOR, TITLE, PUBLISHER, CITY OF PUBLICATION, COPYRIGHT DATE.

Figure 3 Figure with magnifying glass retrieved from Pixabay.com

III. Lower School students relish being a super sleuth.

Developmentally, students in the Lower School are curious seekers and love a challenge. When beginning bibliography lessons, I first turn it into a game. I start with the easiest information first, then mix it up until we get to what I have found to be the most challenging: publisher.

Once I have introduced vocabulary, here is a framework I use:

PK, AUTHOR, TITLE: even though not fully reading, PK students can look at the front of most nonfiction books and point to where the title is and where the author’s name is located.

K, AUTHOR, TITLE: emerging readers, K students can look at the front of most nonfiction books and point to where the title is and where the author’s name is located, and can occasionally read this information.

Grade 1, AUTHOR, TITLE, COPYRIGHT DATE: emerging and beginning readers, Grade 1 students can find the author and the title, and when shown the copyright page, can find the copyright date.

Grades 2-5, AUTHOR, TITLE, CITY OF PUBLICATION, PUBLISHER, COPYRIGHT DATE: students aged 7 and up can find all of this information with varying degrees of support.

At each age and stage, I provide a simple way to record the information except for PK where we create a group bibliography, as the research is usually done at the class level. In K, my students can copy the author and title onto paper and include at the end of their report OR the tech integrator can assist with having them type it into a new document. In Grades 1 through 5, I have created graphic organizers that stair-step up with developmental stages.

Figure 4 Rainbow check mark retrieved from publicdomainpictures.net

IV. Checking it once, checking it twice!

When recording information for a bibliography, I encourage students to trade their organizers and assist in the super sleuth checking. When we are finished, these organizers go back to the classroom for the students to connect to their completed research project. My faculty especially appreciates the collaboration because of the hybrid need-hate relationship most have with this step of the research process. However, it is ESSENTIAL to build these habits young, and with relative ease of use, so that the task is less daunting as an older student – and seen as an essential, credible part of the research experience.

Share your Bibliography experiences in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Sharing is Caring with our Youngest Learners: Bibliographies in the Lower School

  1. This is fantastic–thanks! I have just been meeting (again) with division heads and head of school about integrating these skills appropriately across grade levels K-12, and this will be a great way to share with our Lower School teachers how easy it can be to teach these skills even to our younger students. It has taken 8 years (!), but I think we are poised to implement this instruction at last!
    We have agreed as a school to focus on MLA documentation as a way to avoid confusing students with different citation methodologies. I don’t always call it a Works Cited document with our younger students, but I do call it Citations. That way they can transition easily to calling it Works Cited later on.

  2. This is inspiring to hear that this is working with citations beginning in 2nd grade! We have defaulted towards author and title, and it’s important to hear that other schools have taught these skills successfully. I completely agree with your assessment that our youngest students are “curious seekers who love a challenge.” Great work!

  3. This is fantastic, thank you so much! I’ve often wondered if we could also teach citation from PreK using the notion of thanking people who help you. At least at my children’s school, they made books as early as PreK, and loved writing the dedication. I’ve wondered if one could develop a through-line from “This book is for my dog, Fluffy, because she is always fluffy when I need to cuddle.” to the implication of “I’d like to thank the following authors for sharing ideas that helped me build my project.”

    Love your framing citation as sleuthing — love of detective work is such a wonderful driver and helps students hold on to curiosity as they get older.

  4. Thanks for sharing your process! The sequential graphic organizers is a great idea. I am always looking for new ways to teach citation creation. Could you share a 1st or 2nd grade graphic organizer, so I can see the document?

Leave a Reply to Jennifer Falvey Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *