We have been immersed in the Revolutionary War through our Colonists in Crisis unit during the second quarter of school, and they're learning a lot. Curiosity comes naturally to kids which makes it the perfect time to research someone from the Revolutionary War era. Research sets a solid foundation for lifetime learning and is readily embraced as soon as I announce it. Additionally, not assigning a specific person to research, but giving choice, adds to their enthusiasm.
I give them a simple criteria sheet Considering the Assignment which lists many figures from the Revolutionary era and the assignment. They are to find information Looking for a Subject to Research about a person of their choice from this time period and create a poster with at least two illustrations and ten facts. They search for books Student Finding a Book and use the internet Using the Internet. Additionally, they write a one-page essay. The entire assignment will take two weeks and they will use their library and computer time to complete research. If they use their time wisely, the writing and creating can be done at school, but most of that will be completed at home.
The students are given considerable time in the library to continue their research Deep into the Research and complete their project. My objective is for the kids to research during our library or computer times, Focused Students with an extra research period here or there so I can observe and aid them in the process. Not surprisingly, many students choose to go directly to the internet to determine which Revolutionary War era figure they'd like to research. This is the natural and viable option these days, however it's distressing to me to see how many kids find books almost irrelevant. Before giving them freedom to research on their own, I stress that the internet is wonderful, but they need to explore other methods as well. One of the things that bothers me the most with internet based research is the distraction that comes with it. I sometimes have to redirect kids from irrevelant sidebars that draw them away from the task at hand. When researching with a book that variable isn't there. The librarian pulls sample books for them to peruse, she directs them to the American Wars non-fiction section, and reminds them of the numerous biographies. She also points out that the Reference books, such as encyclopedias and almanacs are available.
The kids have a chance to look through these books and after about ten minutes are free to use the computer. A list of suggestions are provided, but I love when they have their own ideas. This research project is a rather fast one. They have two weeks to complete a piece of writing and a poster. Creating a Visual It's nice to hear them collaborate as they work in the library. Collaboration I also take time to discuss credible websites on the internet. I like the resource, How to Identify Credible Online Resources, from Thomson High School. Additionally, plagiarism is addressed so that students understand how important it is not to copy someone else's work. One of the best ways I have students combat plagiarism, is to write points of interest onto 3 x 5 cards, as they find them, using their own words immediately. This way, there will be less of a chance that they copy.
Note on book vs internet: I taught a Social Studies methods course for Northern Arizona University from 2010-2013. It was interesting to hear how college students expect the classroom to look in the future. My first year, one of the students was insistent that books will become completely replaced by technology, and wanted to change one of the research lessons I presented to reflect his desire of NOT utilizing books. It was the first time I'd heard that, and I was appalled. After he brought this up, I researched on my own (hoping what he said wasn't true) only to discover it was coming: Classroom Without Books. Things change quickly with technology these days, and I can easily see what he said was right on track. They are accomplished at navigating around the internet, which is important. Having said that, I want my kids to learn how to research using books, even if their generation is one of the last.
Although the kids write about their research subject, at the Presentation stage, I only ask them to read the facts on their poster. They have a great time presenting these visuals to their classmates, View From the Back- Watching and Waitingwhich were pretty easy to make. They include at least two illustrations and at least ten facts, and a written portion. Written Research I typically pick sticks to give the students a fair chance of being picked or not. After a student completes the presentation, the whole class gives one clap. This takes away from silly clapping, etc. and is a smooth transition to the next presentation. I hang their research posters Displayed Posters around the room.