Saturday, March 16, 2013

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

During my time as a language arts teacher, I hated to teach research. I felt like I was always trying to teach all the skills at the same time, and my students just were not connecting with the process. If I had known then how valuable a school library media coordinator could have been to this process, I might have been more effective. After becoming a media coordinator and adopting the Big 6 school-wide, I loved teaching research. It simplified the process for the students and myself.

The seventh grade really embraced the use of the Big 6, and we made sure to provide them with an overview  of the process at the beginning of the year. The lesson we used with this was based on a presentation I had done for Teaching Fellows with another teacher at my school. 

This lesson followed the steps of the Big 6 and revolved around the creation of a peanut butter sandwich. Students worked in groups of four to complete the process. 

Step One: Task Definition - For this step, we discussed that sometimes the task was defined by the teacher and sometimes students were able to develop this themselves. The task for students was to design a peanut butter sandwich (teacher defined).

Step Two: Information Seeking Strategies - At this point, we have a discussion about where students would normally get the information they need to complete the task. This includes looking up recipes on how to make a peanut butter sandwich and where to purchase materials. 

Step Three: Location and Access - Unfortunately, students cannot utilize their typical sources for making a sandwich (their kitchens, the grocery store), so at this point I pull my food cart out of storage. Here I have an abundance of materials to complete the task. This includes peanut butter (really sun butter due to possible allergies), chocolate chips, marshmallow creme, jelly, honey, cookie cutters (for presentation purposes), and much more. Students have to purchase these materials, so we have trivia time. Trivia questions are based on scenarios where the answers are similar to Big 6 steps (I wish I could have found the questions I used, but unfortunately, I was unable to locate them). For every correct answer (and some questions have multiple answers) groups are rewarded with vouchers.

Step Four: Information Seeking Strategies - Students gather their materials in preparation for Step Five. All items have a cost except for the peanut butter and bread.

Step Five: Synthesis - I usually introduce Steps 4 and 5 together. This is done so that students can make a plan for their sandwich prior to gathering their materials. This helps illustrate the point that the steps do not necessarily need to be completed in order. After the design, they go back to Step 4 and gather their materials. Then they go back to Step 5 to complete their creation.

Step Six: Evaluation - Students share their peanut butter sandwiches at this point. We talk about the design and whether they fulfilled the task. Some groups do not use the peanut butter on their sandwiches. For these groups, I focus on asking questions that help them see they did not complete the task as indicated as they were to make a peanut butter sandwich. This opens the door to a discussion about revisiting the earlier steps to ensure that you are on the right track. 

This has been one of my favorite lessons over time. When students go on to 8th grade and begin working on research, I often refer back to this activity to help refresh their memories. 

If you are not using a research model, I strongly encourage you to do so. It will better prepare students for completing research, and provide you with an avenue to help classroom teachers see how you can better help them navigate an often intimidating process. 


  1. Great post! I'm going to try this for sure! If you ever find those questions, please share them!

  2. Thanks so much! One of my favorite lessons, but three days and 250+ students will definitely make you tired. I will keep looking for the questions.