Wednesday, January 30, 2013

21st Century Research and Writing for Young Children

Students are engaging in culture research and writing.
How do you research and write today?  In what ways has technology changed that process for you, and how do you transfer those changes to the way you facilitate student learning and practice with regard to research and writing?

My students are working on culture projects.  In part, the focus of the project is guided research and paragraph writing.

As a team, we've created a project website with a project outline, links and resources.  We are teaching students how to use the website to lead their project work.

We're also guiding students to find just right informational text, cull essential facts from that text and transfer that information into their own words into well organized paragraphs.  Later we'll teach students how to format the information in organized, beautiful ways on their tri-fold posters as a way of presenting the information, and teaching the audience about their topic at our upcoming grade-level Culture Celebration Museum Open House.

Yesterday, as I modeled the research process, students' thoughts and questions led the work. This is the process we're using.

1. First, use the links* on the website to access information for your informational paragraphs.  Use the paragraph template as a guide when working.  Find the facts** that you want to include.  When you find the facts you have the following choices:
  • Cut and paste facts into the top of your Google doc.
  • Write the facts in your own words on the paragraph planner.
  • Type the facts in your own words on the paragraph planner. 
  • Screenshot or drag free-to-use images into your Google doc too for later use.
2. Draft your paragraph by hand or on the computer. Don't worry too much about how it sounds at first, just get all the facts down.

3. Look over your paragraph and make sure you have a topic sentence, three or more detail sentences and a closing/summarizing sentence.  I always tell students that paragraphs were created to match the human brain as our brains aren't capable of taking in run-on information with depth and care, hence "little packages of information" or paragraphs with an introduction and closing serve our brains well for communication and learning.

4. Read the paragraph once again.  Clean the paragraphs up by correcting spelling, punctuation and capitalization.  Make sure you're varying your words, not using too many little words, and choosing words that are wonderful.  Read it again from the reader's point of view.  Will your reader understand, enjoy and learn from what you have written? Edit with a friend, then sign up for a teacher edit. 

5. Finally, print your paragraph and put it into your project folder for our poster creation days.

Is this how you foster research in this tech-era we're living in?  Do you have other methods that serve children better?  I'm excited by this new approach to research and writing as it eliminates a lot of the drudgery and gives both teachers and students time to focus on what really matters: critical thinking, reading and wonderful writing skill.

*If students can't find the information they're looking for on the provided links, we guide their search for more information via online websites and search engines.

**I taught students how to use the "define" search to find definitions and similes so that they can understand the research well and find new words to write the facts.