Ever since I’ve been teaching 2nd grade, we’ve always ended the school year with a big animal research project because one of the South Carolina 2nd grade science standards, standard 2.L.5., states that “the student will demonstrate an understanding of how the structures of animals help them survive and grow in their environments”. When my 2nd grade team first began this project many years ago, we had the students conduct their research using books and the Internet, and we had them create a basic PowerPoint presentation to present their research.
Well several years back, I decided to change the way students presented their research because PowerPoint presentations can often be overused and become a bore. I decided to have my students create a PhotoStory project to present their information instead! By now, I’m sure that everyone is familiar with the PhotoStory software, but if not, I’ll briefly explain how it works. PhotoStory is a free Microsoft software that allows users to use photos, narration, and music to create basic multimedia movies. The software is basically self-guided and very easy to use—no expert video editing skills are necessary. The Microsoft PhotoStory software can be downloaded for free from here.
These are the steps I followed to complete the project:
- To start the project, I divided students into small groups of 2 or 3, and let each group choose an animal to research. Each group was required to pick a different animal—no duplicates.
- Then I had the students conduct their research. They were required to use at least 1 Internet source and 1 book source. The librarian at our school helped us conduct our research and cite our sources. I created a “Note-Taking Guide” data sheet to guide the students’ research. The guide contained questions similar to the following: What animal group does your animal belong to? 2. What does your animal eat? 3. How does your animal defend itself against other animals? 4. What type of habitat does your animal live in? While these are a few of the questions I used, these questions could easily be adapted to target whatever animal information you want the students to find. I also had the students create 2 “quiz” questions to ask their classmates based on the information they gathered about their animals.
- I made a “script” for the students to follow while making their movies. Once the “Note-Taking Guide” was complete, I had the students use the guide to complete the script.
- After the scripts were complete, the students took several days to practice reading the scripts with their partners.
- While we were practicing our scripts, the librarian gathered a variety of copyright-free images of the animals the students had chosen and saved them in folders named after each group on the school’s “Common” drive.
- Once the librarian finished gathering our photos, I showed the students how to use the PhotoStory software and how to locate and upload their animal pictures to the software on the Promethean Board.
- Then, the students arranged their pictures in the order they wanted them to appear in the movie, typed their text, and used their scripts to record their movie narration. They also added music to their movies.
- When the students finally finished their Animal Research Projects, we had a huge “2nd Grade Movie Premier” where they presented their movies to their classmates and other special guests, such as parents and other teachers/administrators. We even served popcorn and juice boxes as refreshments!
I didn’t attach the students’ movies because their movies included pictures and personal information about themselves on the opening slides. My class had a blast working on this project, and I think that they really learned (and retained) a lot of information about animals and their habitats! We’ve repeated this project several times over the past few years, but I hope to change it up a little this year and try something new! We’ll see how that goes! I’ll be sure to keep you updated!