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I don’t even remember the country I researched nor do I recall what I discovered in my inquiry.
I still remember a monumental, and nearly insurmountable, research project that I was assigned in elementary school on an African country.
It caused no end of frustration at the time and the memory of it still gives me shivers.
This allows writers to do searches and citations right in a Google Doc.
I had all students set up a Research Document where they would take notes and grab information, while also keeping track of websites and citations. By doing this, I was able to have a handle on how students were faring and who needed the most one-on-one assistance from me during class.
The various extension activities have also provided my top-tier writers with an means to push themselves at every step of the way, meeting their needs, too.
After talking through what a research project is, and what it has been for them in the past, I explained how we would be using an environmental theme connection for the writing, but beyond that, the choice of a topic would be up to them.
He suggests a simplified note-taking system, and he urges teachers to allow students to have choice in the matter of topics, within a larger frame. This year, I found great success with my students’ ability to generate a topic of interest: ► I tapped into a new tool in Google Docs for gathering information; ► shortened the writing expectations to focus on structural development of essay; ► reinforced paraphrasing and quoting while arguing against the plagiarism of copy/paste; and ► added in “extension activities” that allow students to move beyond the essay itself to show understanding with media projects.
The result was a satisfying few weeks of research-based writing, and even my struggling writers made significant progress in writing longer pieces, not to mention learned how to effectively use the Internet for research (done in conjunction with lessons coordinated with our school librarian).
I hoped that by sharing my thinking, it would make more visible the writing process, and for many students, it was helpful to watch their teacher writing research with them.
Many students kept my annotated essay files in front of them as they worked (although more than a few copied my writing style in the opening paragraph.) One particular student, whose work I want to share here as an example of our process, was interested in the elephant generally, and then they narrowed down the focus to the African Forest Elephant.