Explorer Trading Cards

Wanted to catch your attention with the final product first.  Cute, huh?

Each year, we struggle with the "Informational Text" and "Research" Standards.  It's hard to teach little fourth graders about research.  It takes baby steps.

I have my students research explorers each year because this cross-curricular activity covers many standards all at once!

After I have already covered many explorers in social studies {Magellan, Polo, Balboa, Columbus, etc.} my students are ready to research.  I've helped build some background information so they know why we are researching these old dead guys.

First, I collaborate with my media specialist and she teaches several wonderful lesson on note taking, citing sources and finding resources.

Her lesson begins with how to take precise, accurate and thorough notes.  She covers a shelf of stuffed animals {about 43 or so of them...I wish I had a photo}.  She uncovers the animals and tells the students {without much guidance before-hand} to jot down what they observe.  Then, she covers them back up and asks for the students to tell her what they wrote down. It was interesting to see what they wrote:

Some listed animals by type.
Some counted all the birds and wrote a number, then did the same for other types of animals.
Some listed animals by color.
Some just started to write EVERYTHING they saw...only to run out of time after naming only about 10.

This led to a great discussion about "what should I write down" when researching.

Our next lesson was about how to and why do we cite sources.  The kids all had to cite a book source using correct MLA format.  That was E*X*H*A*U*S*T*I*N*G.  We ran around with chickens with our heads cut off trying to make sure that every comma, period, colon, etc. was in place on every card.  Why did we do this?
{Because we are CRAZY}

My thoughts are that students need to be taught at a young age this skill...it will follow them for-eva!

Finally, the students choose an explorer from the list that I generate based on the books in our library.  They cite this source and then begin taking notes about their explorer.  I provide the students with a guideline of information that they need to look for in the books (explorers research chart).

Next we move on to using Discus.  Do all states have access to this online encyclopedia?  There is an elementary level page that my students access.  They type in the name of their explorer and pull up a very organized summary of that explorer.

Here's a screenshot of what they see:

They click on Britannica Elementary to access the elementary level.

The best part of this source is that the citation is at the bottom of the page and all the students have to do is copy it letter-by-letter-colon-by-colon-forward slash-by-forward-slash...yadda, yadda, yadda.

Some students can find everything on the explorer research chart.  Others, not everything.  For example, exact birth dates and death dates are unknown for several explorers.  Sometimes the information in the book source is contrary to the information online.  This leads to a wonderful discussion of accuracy of the information, what is more current, etc. 

Here are some pictures of a student's citation cards and explorer research chart:

All three...
Book Source Citation
Online Encyclopedia Citation
Explorer Research Chart

Once all of the research is complete {this takes a few weeks because we don't go to our lessons in the library every day...we have an open library schedule and we have to schedule with the media specialist times for the lessons} they take their explorer research charts and use them to create Explorer Trading Cards!

These are the front sides of a few examples

I'll be adding this activity to TpT as soon as it cooperates.  I've been screaming at my computer waiting ever-so-patiently for it to upload and then it times out with a 504 error.  Does this ever happen to anyone?  I'll add it tomorrow...off to bed.

I'm glad that project is OvEr...on to the next project :)


  1. Hey! You won a word wall from my giveaway! I don't have your email address though! Email me at adventuresinthird@gmail.com. Let me know what grade you want! I am awful at remembering things! :)

    Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher

  2. Yay! Thanks, Amber. I forget to add my email EVERY time I enter stuff...argh!

  3. Such a cute project! You totally gave an idea! Thanks for sharing!

    ❤ Mor Zrihen from...
    A Teacher's Treasure
    Teaching Treasures Shop

  4. I love this idea! I'm student teaching in a fourth grade class this fall in Anderson District 5. Would you be willing to share your template for the research page or what kind of things you had them research? I'd be so thankful!