Teaching Kids to Cite Their Sources

With increased requirements in the younger grades, especially when it comes to critical thinking and researching, it is more important than ever that we teach our kiddos early and often to cite their sources.

Citing sources helps us as teachers (or homeschooling parents) to track their steps and verify the information that they are sharing.

As a college student, I remember being completely and totally baffled by how to cite my sources to stay in line with the multiple style guides that were required.

Luckily, it can be super easy when you break it down into centers!

Citing Sources Centers

There are a few things that you will need to gather to be successful:

Lesson Plan

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 9.42.22 PMAfter you have the supplies, and before the kids arrive, set up 4-6 computers with one website EACH around the room in two separate stations, 2-3 computers per station. These will be the computer/website citation stations. In 4-6 other stations create: a reference book (encyclopedia) station; non-fiction book station; newspaper station; and magazine station. Each of these stations should have multiple examples of each resource type.

At each station, put a copy of the appropriate task cards; include multiple copies. NOTE: there is NOT an answer sheet for this, since your particular books and materials WILL vary. However, to check answers, please refer to the FREE Citations Style Guides. For the younger grades (grades 3-5/6), just pick ONE style and go with it. For grade 7-12, pick 1-2 styles. For college (if you are using this as a refresher), pick the style(s) that best match your discipline(s).

These directions are primarily for use in the grades 3-12 category, but can certainly be adapted for college students or study groups.

When students arrive, have the materials arranged around the room. Place a copy of your chosen style guide on each student’s desk.

CiteWalk the kids through each citation format. Be sure to show them several examples of each one and invite them to help you create each type of citations BEFORE you let them loose to the stations. Because you are being thorough, your prep time before actually doing the stations might be 1-2 class periods depending on your students’ age/grade/ability.

Provide these instructions: “You will be working at your own pace to cite each of the kinds of resources we have covered today: reference books, non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines, and websites.”

“I will pick your FIRST station, but then you may work as you please.”

“Write your citations on the answer sheet I am giving you now.”

“If you have questions, please ask a friend for help OR look at your guide BEFORE you ask me!”

“As you finish, please (insert your activity of choice here).”

Repeat Practice

These stations are a great way to introduce even very young students to citations. I have successfully used this format, though not quite as polished, with my fourth grade students. My class included students who were identified with special education needs, students who were in the ESOL program, and students who were everywhere from average to gifted.

Success AchievedThe way I achieved my success was through repeat practice. We did these stations over and over again. They became part of my literacy centers and writing centers.

Yes, people did think I was crazy. For asking fourth graders to cite their sources appropriately. For asking them to do this when there are shortcuts.

My thought: shortcuts are just fine, but I would rather know the long way first. As the saying goes: “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” Teaching children to cite sources properly will is teaching them to fish, for the proper way to give credit to others in their research papers.

Let me know what you think and how you use this resource in your classroom!



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