A quick and painless way to keep student’s research skills fresh throughout the year
Written by: Josh Flores
Subject: English Language Arts
Grade: 8 – 10
Timeframe: 3 classes (50 min each)
Every school year, students and educators are subjected to the annual research paper/project! It’s arduous to teach, grade and often uninspired. Rather than devoting so much time to developing a single research project, students should be given the opportunity to conduct research multiple times during the school year covering subjects of genuine interest.
Students keep their research muscle flexed and eliminate research anxiety by becoming familiar with the process. The majority of the following lesson promotes Student Centered Learning and leaves the teacher in a facilitator role (less lecture = more fun).
The following exercises are meant to gradually bring students up on Bloom’s Taxonomy until they can properly synthesize information and create deeper knowledge.
- Learn how to collaborate in small groups
- Create a product and present it to the class
- Move kinesthetically
- Develop a student-centered learning approach
- Computer access
- EasyBib’s website evaluation guide
- Variety of different sources (encyclopedias, novels, newspapers, etc.)
- EasyBib’s note taking guide
- EasyBib’s NoteBook
- Screen cast software
Introduction Exercise 1: Evaluating your online sources
This introductory exercise will provide the first building block of research skills necessary for continued Flash Research through the school year. Student research skills will increase due to the repetition. That way, they won’t be overwhelmed by a single, large-scale research project.
- Begin class by creating a list of questions using the following prompt: What questions do you have about yourself? What questions do you have about the world around you? Their responses will be their future research questions. (As an alternative, students can draw random topics from a hat.)
- Organize students into paired “research teams”.
- Ask students to share their list with their “research” teammate.
- Have student research teams limit their questions to a top three.
- Give students the opportunity to present their most intriguing research question to the class.
- Provide research teams a copy of the EasyBib Website Evaluation Guide
- With the evaluation guide, give students access to computers with Internet access.
- Scavenger hunt time! Students will choose their most interesting research question from the beginning free write and look for answers using the web. This step assumes students are comfortable using search engines. I prefer Google
- ALTERNATE GAME: If students are unfamiliar with Internet search engines, a fun game to play is “See who can pull up the least amount of search results”! After typing a search term in the Internet search engine, you’ll be given a large number of results. The basis for this game is to have students use specific terms and lessen the results. The student group with the fewest but still relevant results is the winner!
- After students determine they’ve found an appropriate website to answer their research question, students must use the EasyBib Website Evaluation Guide to determine its credibility. Here’s where the writing begins!
- Using a non-traditional essay format, student research teams will compose three paragraphs presenting their research.
- First Paragraph: present your chosen research questions and explain in detail the appeal or why it would benefit you to find an answer.
- Second Paragraph: present your research findings and hopefully the answer to your research question. If your research is inconclusive, explain why you didn’t find an answer.
- Third Paragraph: taking cues from the EasyBib Website Evaluation Guide, describe your primary source of information and explain how you know it is a credible source.
- Using EasyBib.com, also have students practice proper citation and require the correct citation of their evaluated website.
- If time permits, students can present their findings to each other. They can conduct a whole-class presentation or JIGSAW their findings.
- Ideally, they could also synthesize their research into a more appealing presentation including visuals. There are plenty of Web 2.0 sites to fulfill this.
In the end, this activity fulfills basic research skills and begins the building blocks of larger research projects by enabling students to evaluate primary sources. The following projects will build upon this skill and refer back to this introductory exercise.
Exercise 2: So Many Resources Scavenger Hunt!
In paired research teams, students will analyze a variety of unrelated resources and cite into a proper MLA bibliography. The primary goal of this activity is to have students become familiar with the variety of research resources available besides those found on the Internet. The secondary goal is to have students familiarize themselves with the importance of proper citation using EasyBib.
- The pairs will revolve around the classroom to setup stations or use the school library. Each area will have a different resource. For example: Station one may contain a set of encyclopedias, Station two – novels, Station three – newspapers, Station four – magazines, Station five – nonfiction resources, etc. Naturally, if the school library is available, it makes for a more realistic environment to explore and less work for the teacher as all the resources are already setup.
- Student teams will have five minutes to thoroughly analyze a resource and record the following information…
- Students must turn in a properly typed bibliography page with the included annotations for each of the required types of research resources.
- Advanced: Deepen student learning by allowing them to synthesize the information into a presentation of their findings using any type of Web 2.0 application. They already did the research!
Exercise 3: Six Degrees of Separation!
At this point students have practiced the art of searching and citation. Now it’s time to synthesize multiple sources and explain the correlation. This will be achieved by having students analyze specifics of a broader subject. In the example below, we will use exotic animals as our broad subject. Students can be given the task to research specific examples of exotic animals or a list of possible choices has been provided.
Naturally the topic choices can be adjusted to meet your classroom needs.
- Students will be provided a broad topic and requirements for researching finer aspects of such. For our example, Exotic (and sometimes dangerous) animals is provided.
- Share the EasyBib introduction video on using the dynamic Notebook tool found here.
- Equip your students with a copy of the Note taking guide as it will be a handy reference should they hit any road blocks.
- Once students are logged into their EasyBib school accounts, provide the following requirements for their research:
- Three types of exotic animals and…
- a description of each…
- the habitat of each…
- the preferred food source of each…
- an interesting fact about each (student choice)…
- Instruct students to create a separate note card in the EasyBib note book for each requirement. The setup of the note cards will give them practice with the following skills: note-taking, annotation and citation.
- Once the information has been gathered, the students will find themselves with multiple note cards of information on the screen. It is now time to synthesize the gathered information by combining the note cards into a sensible order as the students see fit. As shown in the introduction video, the EasyBib notebook can handle this task. Also, this aspect of research skills is a highlight of the upcoming Common Core initiative and EasyBib has provided a great tool to facilitate this learning. But…
- …it is best to provide students the opportunity to explain their reasoning for the order in which they place their cards. In an effort to save time and authentically incorporate technology into the classroom curriculum, I suggest using Screenr.com and its simple screen cast software. If it takes too much time to have students setup their own account, have a pre-setup account for them to share.
- Ask students to visit Screenr.com and create a screen cast of them moving the collected cards in the EasyBib Notebook while narrating their thought process as to why they chose the particular grouping of information for a possible research essay. For example: A student might explain why they feel it is best to write a separate paragraph for each animal and provide all the information in that paragraph. Alternatively, they might want to write a paragraph focusing on the eating habits followed by the animals’ habitat, etc.
The primary goal of this activity is to familiarize students with the variety of essay structure and the importance of organizing the information in a coherent manner. The secondary goal is proper note taking skills and is supported by the EasyBib notebook.
(30 students est. divided into pairs = 15 topics)
Animals: there are 15 exotic animals listed below and each would be randomly assigned to Student Tactical Authentic Research Teams (or S.T.A.R.Ts)
- Hyacinth Macaw
- Chinese Crested hairless Puppies
- Savannah Cat
- Bengal Cat
- Sugar Glider
- Snow Macaque
- Squirrel Monkey
- Mona Monkey
- Chinchilla Lanigera
- White Lion Cubs
- Reticulated Python
- Leopard Gecko
Other Broad Topics for Research could include…
- Hot button issues
- Personal issues
- Historical figures
- Political figures
Exercise 4: Writing the Research Paper
Students should be assessed based on the skills developed in each exercise.
Exercise 1: Students should be assessed on their search strategy and ability to find sources online. However, they also should understand the importance of website evaluation and the criteria by which to determine whether or not a source is credible.
Exercise 2: Students should simply become familiar with all the different types of sources that are available at their library for research. They should be assessed on the depth and thoroughness of each source, no matter what source type it is. They should also have cited each source accurately in their bibliography.
Exercise 3: Students should be assessed on the creativity, complexity and depth of their screencast in explaining how to synthesize the different sources in their research.
Exercise 4: Students should be assessed based on a grading rubric designed by the teacher like any other research paper.
At the end of each exercise, the students should have developed the skills in the assessment section of the lesson plan. Furthermore, each exercise should have added on to the skills developed in the previous exercise. The ability to find information through a variety of mediums, and the ability to synthesize all of this information into a cohesive research paper are all skills that are built upon each other in this lesson.
In addition, the lesson should have been engaging and interesting for the students. It provides a more fun and creative alternative to the standard research paper. Finally, students should have sufficiently integrated technology into the research process, and become familiar with Web 2.0 skills.
This lesson plan and the exercises outlined in it are meant to be practiced regularly throughout the school year (except for the first.) Each exercise may be done separately from the others, and should be spread out throughout the semester. This way, students can refresh their research skills and continue to improve throughout the school year.
Common Core Standards:
|Common Core Standards||10th Grade Expectation||How the lesson plan addresses this standard|
|Anchor Reading Standard 1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.||CC.R.IT.10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.||When students take notes on each source in exercises 2 and 3, students must cite the textual evidence that supports their analysis.|
|Anchor Reading Standard 2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.||CC.R.IT.10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text||In exercise 2, students must take notes of each source and then summarize the source briefly in their own words.|
|Anchor Reading Standard 7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.*||CC.R.IT.10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.||In exercise 2, students will use multiple source types to research the same topic, comparing various accounts in different mediums.|
|Anchor Writing Standard 1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.||CC.W.10.1
1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
a. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
d. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented
|The rubric for the research paper in exercise 4 should be based on developing the argumentative writing skills outlined in this standard.|
|Anchor Writing Standard 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.||CC.W.10.2
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
a. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
b. Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
c. Use appropriate and varied transitions to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.
e. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic)
|The rubric for the research paper in exercise 4 should be based on developing the informative/explantory writing skills outlined in this standard.|
|Anchor Writing Standard 4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.||CC.W.10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.||The research papers written in exercise 4 will teach students to write specifically for the purpose of research. Furthermore, outlining the paper dynamically in the Notebook will improve organization of the paper.|
|Anchor Writing Standard 5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.||CC.W.10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grades 9–10 on page 54.)||Planning out the paper through the screencasting software and the Notebook will improve students’ writing abilities specific to writing a research paper.|
|Anchor Writing Standard 6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.||CC.W.10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.||Students will use a technology-integrated approach to writing a research paper and dynamically link information to its source through EasyBib.|
|Anchor Writing Standard 7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.||CC.W.10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.||This lesson plan divides up the different aspects of writing a research paper into shorter lessons, so students can practice conducting short and long-term research projects. They will also synthesize multiple sources to demonstrate understanding of the research topic.|
|Anchor Writing Standard 8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.||CC.W.10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation||Students will learn how to find and use multiple sources, both print and digital, assess the credibility of these sources, and integrate the information into their research papers while citing their sources to avoid plagiarism.|
|Anchor Writing Standard 9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.||CC.W.10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
a. Apply grades 9–10 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work [e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare]”).
b. Apply grades 9–10 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallicious reasoning”).
|Students will use the information drawn from the sources provided for analysis and research.|