Primarily Primary: Project Organization

Teacher reading book to young students in classroom. Horizontally framed shot.


This article continues the “Primarily Primary” series with suggestions for implementing a research, product, and presentation process with identified gifted primary grade students using the Texas Performance Standards Project (TPSP; Texas Education Agency [TEA], 2006-2018a-c) as one way to meet the students’ needs. Along with consideration of the criteria established by the state, this article looks at skills and tools to organize students’ research and findings. In addition to TPSP, other research sources are suggested.

According to the Texas State Plan for the Education of the Gifted/Talented (State Plan; Texas Education Agency, 2019b),

Participation in the Texas Performance Standards Project (TPSP), or other experiences that result in the development of sophisticated products and/or performances that are targeted to an audience outside the classroom, is available through gifted/talented curricula. (p. 9)

Texas offers TPSP as one way for students to explore their learning interests and for educators to evaluate students’ efforts. Characteristics of gifted learners are met as they engage in their quest for new learning while creating products and showing their research abilities.


As Bainbridge (2020a, 2020b) presented in the previous article, primary grade gifted learners are creative thinkers. Gifted minds ponder what-ifs and I wonders. Although they also may approach a task analytically, these students use metaphors and symbols to explain their ideas. Furthermore, they exhibit concern with details even while they display their abstract or global thinking. Their skills of inquiry reveal an ability to learn more quickly and blossom when presented with a challenge. Gifted learners are task-committed when exploring interests. Not all primary age students will display all these behaviors and abilities, but these characteristics facilitate the introduction and completion of a Texas Performance Standards Project (Texas Education Agency, 2006-2018a-c) or a similar product. The following suggestions focus on TPSP, but sections such the evaluation rubrics may be used with locally developed or commercially selected projects.

Organization: Skills

Although learning characteristics of young, gifted children are met through the Texas Performance Standards Project, organization skills required for success may be new to primary grade students. Many daily organizational skills the classroom teacher instills in the students from the first day of school are applicable to the research, findings, and products in TPSP. Skills such as where to access papers or work products, where to find learning tools, or how to find information in books/tablets are the type of skills all students are taught in a typical primary classroom. The following are organizing tools to facilitate success with research and findings.

Organization: Research Tools

As noted above, gifted minds ponder what-ifs and I wonders. Research and explorations in TPSP’s Primary section meet this learning nature. Texas Performance Standards Projects’ Tasks provide content and grade level to assist students’ choice. However, initially the teacher may want to select a few tasks from which they can choose based on students’ individual interests. This approach to organization limits students’ choices but is centered on individuals’ interests discovered through interviews or interest inventories. Knowing the students and their interests facilitates the use of Tasks in TPSP.

Once students have determined which Task each wants to explore, a daily log is an organizing tool that lets them know what they have accomplished and what they need to next consider. For example, teachers may create a log such as the following for organizing the learner’s thoughts before beginning research for the day.

DateToday’s IdeasWhere to Look

Or they may add this log completed at the end of their research time.

DateWhat I DidTomorrow I will

Or they may use a combination of the two.

Date: _______________

Today I WillSourceWhat I DidPlan for Tomorrow

These logs are facilitated by the use of Phase I. Learning Experiences (TPSP, 2006d) that guide both the teacher and the students. For example, in the Animal Nation Task (Grade 1, Science; TPSP, 2006b) there is a list to guide students’ research and helps with the formulation of a research question leading to their proposal. The list includes access to a form to direct them from their research question and the findings to their product and presentation. Or a sample worksheet can be located via TPSP that guides their scientific research process and organizes their work. Any type folder, three-ring binder, padlet, Thrively, or technology students use on a regular basis will work throughout their research process.

Organization: Research Tools for Proposal

This portion of the research process is time consuming and, perhaps, the most important for teaching organization skills to young researchers. Without a focus on where they are going with their what-ifs and I wonders, they will not be able to complete the process. Using these thinking processes facilitates the beginning steps of proposal development as they clarify their thoughts and ideas as a guiding question(s).

The list or circle graph in Figure 1 can help students visualize the process and remain on course as their study progresses.

Figure 1

For kindergarten and early-in-the-school-year first graders, this step will require the teacher to be directive yet open to students’ thinking. Many gifted students see the big picture, which makes the task either too daunting or only seen superficially. Those who see it as daunting want to give up because the details are overwhelming. Those who see it superficially overlook the details necessary to delve deeply into the subject or think about their research in complex ways.

Whether daunting or superficial, using depth and complexity questions assist their thinking (Texas Education Agency, 2006c). For example, asking students to look for details about their animal or chosen specific interest and how those details could change over time leads them to thinking beyond the surface. Asking students to visualize their subject from another point of view results in more complex thinking about their topic that will pique their interest.

At all points in this process, the students should be logging in their work via computer files, hard copy in pocket folders, or whatever method is used in their daily classroom work. These efforts will be rewarded as they develop their findings to share first with their peers and teacher, then a wider audience.

Teacher Toolkit I (Texas Education Agency, 2006c) under “Basic Research Skills” facilitates insight into the research process for beginning researchers. Research skills are explained for the teacher to provide to the students as needed in the research process.

Organization: Tools for Findings

This stage of the Texas Performance Standards Project connects to their research by asking students to analyze their research and determine its relevance to their proposal. As students comb through their research work, each will determine if there is enough or too much information to create their final product. Charts, such as KWL, tell students whether to continue research or discard extraneous data. KWL is defined as K—what I know, W—what I want to know or what I wonder, and L—what I learned. These cues result in focusing what they learned and where there are information gaps to be filled.

A more extensive chart is one offered by Sheninger (2021) that expands the KWL chart by adding HAQ. An additional site, Inspiring Inquiry  (Ketko, 2022), provides a visual with question stems to better understand HAQ.

  • H—The letter H stands for how to find the information. This step requires that students recognize that certain websites, books, etc., are particular to finding the answers to the W in KWL. In addition, students go beyond these sources to find people who can offer first person examples or resources they might add. Podcasts and PowerPoint slides on a topic are other ways of finding information. Sheninger (2021) places the How to find information before asking the L, “What have I learned.” This change facilitates the letter Q, Questions, that are suggested after A, Action.
  • A—What ACTION will students take once they have learned what they set out to know? Thinking about the action requires students to be think realistically and use their what-ifs. Perhaps the action needed is unavailable to the students, but they can use their what-if to brainstorm in order to find other avenues for action.
  • Q—What QUESTIONS do students have? What questions remain is another way to use the Q. This coincides with Kaplan’s Unanswered Questions (Texas Education Agency, 2019b, p. 2). This phase includes reflections on their body of work. If there are still questions or new questions have arisen, students may continue their investigation, start a new investigation on their own, or plan for another project.

All findings are guided by their research proposal and guiding questions. The circle graph in Figure 1 focuses this stage in the process.

Organization: Products

Often students want to jump from research to product, especially if they plan drawings and/or a three-dimensional product. Teaching the parts of a research report is vital to success not only in this first effort, but for all future research efforts. The formalization of the research report is essential as they ready their communication for an audience. TPSP Tasks offer specific information about what is included in their product and its place in the completed project.

If video is a part of their final product, specific training must be added with help from a technology professional on the campus or in the district. To teach about citations as a part of their report, refer back to Texas Education Agency  (2006c) under “Basic Research Skills”.

What If I’m Not Using TPSP?

Another source, The Project Approach (Chard, 2013), is a means of directing children through project investigations. This approach is based on the belief that project work follows an unpredictable path because of the varied interests of particular children. The Project Approach is a flexible framework to support teachers. This framework makes the inquiry more manageable by shaping the development of the area of investigation. Teachers guide children through a three-phase process from the beginning of a project to its conclusion. You may find the Project Planning Journal (Helm & Katz, 2013) helpful in understanding and implementing project work.

The Independent Investigation Method (IIM; Nottage & Morse, 2012) offers a seven-step means to guide students through both group and independent research projects. This method provides skills to conduct research and create projects focused on their interests. IIM is aligned with the TEKS College and Career Readiness standards.

Any project that meets requirements specified in the Texas Performance Standards Project is considered appropriate for gifted learners. TPSP has been designed as a guide for learning expectations by Texas Education Agency. A suggestion is to use the TPSP format and evaluation tools as a guide to best practice for young gifted learners.

Whether students learn about the research process through TPSP, The Project Approach, IIM, or a locally developed research system, the occasion for the students to acquire organizational skills while learning about the research process and exploring their interests is an opportunity that uses their what-if and I wonder nature while enriching their skills, learning, and passions.


Bainbridge, C. (2020a, September 17). Characteristics of young gifted children. Very Well Family.

Bainbridge, C. (2020b, May 18). Do gifted children need less sleep? Very Well Family.

Chard, S. (2013, May 1). The project approach to teaching and learning.

Helm, J., & Katz, L. (2013). Young investigators: The project approach in the early years.

Ketko, P. (2022). KWHLAQ Chart: Developing the Thinking Process.

Nottage, C, & Morse, V. (2012). IIM: Teaching research skills in Grades K–12. Routledge.

Sheninger, E. (2021.  Upgrading KWL Chart.

Texas Education Agency. (2019). Texas state plan for the education of gifted/talented students., p.9

Texas Education Agency. (2006a). Teacher toolkit I: Kaplan’s scholarly behaviors.

Texas Education Agency. (2006b). Teacher toolkit I: Kaplan’s scholarly behaviors: Unanswered questions.

Texas Education Agency. (2006c). Teacher toolkit I: Research skills.

Texas Education Agency. (2006-2018). Texas performance standards project.

Texas Education Agency. (2006-2018a). Texas performance standards projects. Animal nation.

Texas Education Agency. (2006-2018b). Texas performance standards project. How to use TPSP.

Texas Performance Standards Project. (2006-2018c). Texas performance standards project: Phase I.