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Citing - for the Very Young (Super3 style)

Posted by Mike Eisenberg (mike) on Apr 16 2012
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I've been thinking a lot about developing citing/creditng skills among elementary students.

This can and should be fun - creating a "culture of crediting" in a school with classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, technology teachers, administrators and even parents modeling for students by continually crediting and citing sources - in coversation, teaching, on paper, and electronically.

We also talk about having the very youngest begin to learn citing by using rubber stamps or stickers to give credit -


Here are examples of the Super3 Sam citing stickers -

At a workshop last week (in Puerto Rico), I was asked about when and how to transition to an accepted format - such as APA or MLA.  At what age should the kids be using APA or MLA?  Good question. I answered that by middle school, grade 6 or 7, students can start to cite formally - BUT, they should use a citing tool such as NoodleTools, RefWorks, EasyBib or one of the others.

That got me thinking further - what's in between?  What can we do across the elementary grades to make it easy and common for students to credit/cite?

The answer - a simplified, but standard style that builds on the rubber stamp/sticker/graphic approach but encourages students to enter more information. Let's call this format "Super3 Crediting". 

Here are the elements of Super3 Crediting style - 


Type - the format of the resource used, e.g., book, computer, people, self. These can be indicated by a graphic/icon/picture or by word or phrase.

TItle - the name of the item (item = page, article, person, etc.).

Author - the creator of the item. There can be multiple authors-creators.

Date - the date created.

Location - where to find the resource - the web url, or other locator if available.


The point is to add various elements at different grade levels. These are suggested grade levels. Adjust as appropriate, but don't try to do too much too soon.  Make it easy, quick, and fun!  I also tried to make the order of elements logical and easy for the kids.  When you ask them, "what resource did you use," they will usually answer with the type of source (a book, or a website) and then the title if you ask.  The author, date, and location may require a bit more digging.

PreK - 1:  Just identify the type of source - Book, Computer, People, Me - and use a graphic approach (e.g., picture, stamp, icon, sticker).

1 - 2:  In addtion to the graphic, add the name of the type of source (Book, Computer, People, Me). Add additional types of sources - website, article. Also, have the students identify the Title - the name of the item.

2 - 3: Add Author and drop the graphic. So, now the style is Author Title, Type, .  Here's an example:  Michael Eisenberg, The Big6, Website.

3 - 4: Add Date, as in  Author, Title, Type, Date. Here's an example:  Michael Eisenberg, The Big6, Website, 2011.

5 - 6: Add Location, as in Title, Type, Author, Date, Location. Here's an example:  Michael Eisenberg, The Big6, Website, 2011,

[revised April 17]



I would love to hear reactions to this proposed new Super3 Crediting Style and the suggested ways to use it. Please comment here!



Last changed: Apr 18 2012 at 11:49 AM

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Author first By Guest on Apr 17 2012 at 8:02 AM
when you add the author, I would put it first because that is the position it would go in. Otherwise, Citing Super3 Style seems good.
Regarding order of elements ... By Guest on Apr 18 2012 at 7:38 AM
Mike E responds -

I understand the rationale for putting author first - that is the way it will be done in formal APA or MLA and the author is the key intellectual property entity. I can agree that we should probably put author first when we introduce that element into the Super3 citation.

I was thinking about how young children might describe a source. They would start with the format/type - ("I used a book) and then relay the name of the item (Whales--Today and Tomorrow). So, I would still focus on these elements from PreK - 1 or 2. But then, when we do add the author (grade 2 or 3), yes - we should probably put the author first. However, don't worry about the exact format - lastname, firstname or firstname lastname or 1 letter, etc.

Lastly, let's not get too hung up in the mechanics, including which order. The key for younger students is to get them into the habit of crediting. We can fine tune the mechanics later, especially when they use a citation tool.

FYI - I went ahead and revised the suggested order.

What do others think?

-- Mike
Referencing for the Littlies By Guest on Apr 23 2012 at 6:53 PM
I love it. It's simple and logical. I completely agree that establishing the 'culture' of citing in primary school is laying the foundation for ethical use of information. The apa or other style format can come later.
Mike responds - By Guest on Apr 25 2012 at 11:59 AM
Exactly - APA and MLA can wait. Let's make it easy, fun, and meaningful. Kids understand giving credit - they want it too!


Mike Eisenberg
K-5 citing By Guest on May 05 2012 at 7:53 AM
The first thing to do is agree on the 6-12 formatting that your school will follow, then use that as your guide for K -5; ensuring that you vertically align the skill set. By grade 5 I have introduced the idea of MLA.
Great idea! By Guest on May 28 2012 at 6:19 AM
I really like this easy way of building responsibility for resources in younger students. With common experiences like this they can transition to more formal citing.
Lengthy URLs By Guest on Jun 05 2012 at 9:12 AM
I enthusiastically support the quick, fun approach to building a culture of citation! I am meeting soon with each grade level to work on clarifying our skills curriculum. I would appreciate feedback on this:

We have a great 2nd grade unit on NW Forest Animal research. In addition to books, we often find needed details on websites with LONG URLs. Two examples:

What might be a simple guideline for 2nd graders who are using such resources? It is not so easy for them to pull out a brief title of the website, and I don\'t want them to get frustrated.

Any suggestions? Thanks!
Lisa Ellenberg, Catlin Gabel Lower School, Portland, OR
Simple Website Citation thoughts By Guest on Jun 26 2012 at 2:35 PM
When businesses and others promote their websites in media such as commercials they usually just say "" or "" perhaps for young learners that would be a good simple credit.
Another idea would be to simply copy/paste the urls as a list on a document titled Resources or Credits.
There are also Web 2.0 places for educational searches (e.g. for images) that automatically build a citation list when they are used.
right on! By Guest on Aug 08 2012 at 5:30 PM
This is something I began as we adopted the Big6 method a couple years ago. My Kindergarten and First Grade students use a rubber stamp of a person, computer or book on the product we produce and my 2nd graders go one step further and put in the author and title or URL or person's name if they interviewed. As I begin to work with 3 - 5 grade this coming year, I have been thinking about how I will transition to a more sophisticated method, but not quite to MLA or APA yet, maybe with 5th grade I will start that process, using one of the great citing sites that exist now. Thanks, Mike, for starting this thread, it is so import to include this as we begin research with our youngest! Robin Spencer, Library Media Specialist, Copperas Cove, Texas
Fill In the Blanks By Guest on Aug 10 2012 at 12:12 PM
As the library media specialist, I\\\\\\\'ve developed a fill-in-the-blank form. The form has one print and one online source fot younger, two of each for older. Each element has in small type the required element under the line. First and second graders do author, title, and year. Third and fourth graders add more, then fifth graders have all elements. This gradually and easily prepares them for sixth grade when they have to do it themselves. Teachers love the ease of using the form, and students simply submit it with their project. Students wo are capable of using more sources usually hav eno problem following the formula to add more sources on another sheet of paper. Ours happens to be APA, I also did an MLA when we used that years ago.
We begin in first grade teaching them to find the copyright symbol, and asking, \\\\\\\"Why do we have to put this information in our project?\\\\\\\". Answer: \\\\\\\"Because it isn\\\\\\\'t ours!\\\\\\\"

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