This lesson is Day 4 of our “I Am a Biographer” unit. It comes after the students have analyzed what biographers ask, brainstormed and written questions to ask staff members at our school, conducted real interviews in teams of four students to one staff member, and recorded the staff members’ answers.
Gather to the rug.
Okay, biographers, you have learned a lot about your subjects. How did it go out there? Were you able to ask and get answers to all the questions? What was the hardest thing? What was the best thing?
This is when I will explain the task and the reason for it to the students. The students chose who they would interview in a previous lesson and created teams. The students have met with their “subject” and collected information using the Interview Question Form.Because of the protocol of that interview (three students wrote answers to questions as one student asked a question) no student has a completely filled out form.
Their first task is to make sure everybody has everything. I start by “debriefing” a bit about the actual interviews, checking in to see how it went, and finding out if there were any major glitches. (Actually, I’d done this as soon as my students returned to my room from conducting the interviews, but I didn’t want to gloss over that. Interviewing an adult when you are seven or eight is intimidating. They need support, and I need to see if they were able to successfully complete the task. The adult “interviewees” had been coached to help out with scribing, if it appeared necessary.)
I check in with each team, letting them share a bit about how the interviewing went for them. This also gives a little practice with the CCSS about recounting an experience (SL2.4)
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, it sounds like you learned a lot about the person you were interviewing. Our next step is to make sure everyone in your team has all the information you do. So in a moment we are going to meet in interview teams and compare notes. What does compare mean? (CCSS has tried to address the need for students to concretely understand academic language – Tier 2 words – compare is often used on tests, worksheets and tasks, and if a student doesn’t really understand the meaning, they will struggle.)
Great! You are going to look to see if the answers you recorded are the same as your teammates and collect any information they may have that you do not. Share what you have, that they do not. That is your first task.
After a bit, I will ask you to stop and I will tell you a second task that you have today. Listen for the stopping signal! Okay, teams, please collect your interview forms and meet with your group to compare data and fill in missing information on your forms.
This comparison and sharing of data is exactly what the Writing Anchor Standard 8 strives for: Gather relevant information from multiple prit and digital sources, assess teh credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
I send the students off to work. There are four students in each interview group, and they choose where to work in the room. Some students prefer tables, others would rather sit on the floor. The CCSS anchor standard asks that our students “conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.” This is sustained research – they are reading and re-reading the questions and answers about their subject, and they are comparing each other’s information. They will also be discussing what they remember of the interview they participated in which is what CCSS both W 2.8 and SL 2.2 asks them to do. W. 2.8 standard is "Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question." SL 2.2 standard is "Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media." This activity will also be a handy way to include and “get up to speed,” any previously absent student.
Boys and girls, when you settle down to work, please work in pairs comparing answers and collecting what information you don’t have. Please read both the question on your form, and the answer you have recorded. You can add anything you remember your subject saying that you didn’t get recorded. In 10 minutes I will ask you to switch partners so that everyone in your group has all the same information.
Now some of my kids can tell time, but none of them has developed clockwatching behaviors. So if as I am monitoring, I notice they need more than ten minutes, I will hold off on switching. Providing a time limit, and a few prompts… “four more minutes,” adds a little urgency to completing the task.
After (10?) minutes, I ask the children to switch partners and check that they have the same information as their new partner. This time I only allow five minutes – more than likely they won’t have much new info.
After the second set of partners in the teams compare completed interview forms, I ask the students to return to the rug with their interview forms and sit in knee circles in their teams. I also ask them to place all of the forms in the center of their circle.
This is when I want my students to discuss what they want to know more about. Is there an answer they don’t understand, or a question that didn’t get answered? We will go over the form together, and I will ask the group leaders to ask their teammates if they wish to ask their subject to clarify any answers. I take time right now to teach the word “clarify.” Academic language is sprinkled throughout our students’ days, and the word clarify is used often in reading comprehension activities.
We are going to clarify any answers that are confusing or missing information. Clarify means…..
What do you want to know more about? Or is there an answer you don’t really understand. This is what you will do:
1. Look carefully at your interview forms. We will look at each section.
2. Put your heads together with your team mates and decide if you understand the answers and are ready to move on, or if you don’t understand the answer or what to know more and would like to ask Mr. **** or Mrs. **** etc. what they meant.
3. When you’ve decided as a team if you need to clarify, or if you can move on, please hold up your team card. This adds a little element of competition to move the process along.
(I have given each team an index card with their subject’s name on it. We have the Mrs. Blank team and the Mr. Whosit, team, etc. Later, I will use the cards as labels when I clip all the interview forms together to keep for the next lesson.)
4. Before we start examining our information about our subjects, you should know that I will help you write an email to whoever you interviewed. You may ask them to clarify three answers.
5. Be wise about deciding what you wish to ask. You don’t have to ask all three questions; you might only need to clear up your confusion about one answer! You only need to clarify what you don’t understand, or really need to have more information.
I start with Vital Statistics. The Vital Statistics section is the personal data related to birth, death, marriage, children. I repeat the steps 1-2-3 as the children begin to discuss. I don’t give them a ton of time; they SHOULD be pretty familiar with the info on the form.
Probably no one should need anything added, but if they do, I probe a bit.
What are you confused about? Or what do you need to know more about?
If their query makes sense, I hand that team leader a highlighter pen and tell him or her to highlight the exact answer they need clarified. As I do, I paraphrase whatever their wonderment was. I want to plant the words they will use in their email to their subject.
Only the team leader highlights his or her form. (I use the terms clarify and clarified as much as possible. Research is clear that in order for a word to be learned and added to an individual’s vocabulary, it must be heard and spoken many, many times.)
I also know that by tomorrow they are likely to forget what they wanted to know, so I hand the team an index card and tell the leader to ask one member to write their question down. (Next question, different team member - knowing one has a job coming up helps engage learners.)
We go through the rest of the sections as rapidly as possible, repeating steps 1-2-3 with me coaching each group to verbalize and record a follow-up question. When the groups have highlighted two or three answers, we are finished for the day. Here are two girls compiling and clarifying .wmv their forms
I ask the students to stack all their interview forms in the center of their knee circle, place their team name card on the top and have the team leader place it on my reading table. When the team leader returns to the group, I hand out little buttons made with construction paper and safety pins that say, “I ask clarifying questions.” I tell the students the get to wear the buttons home today and explain to their families what they did today and what a clarifying question is. (I have the definition on the back of the button to build in success!)