Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
One of the main goals for their research paper is for students to learn independent work habits. I think it's important that, by this time in the year, students are able to not only make decisions on their own but also learn how to problem solve on their own. With this in mind, many of the steps of their research paper are done independently.
Today's lesson focuses on students learning the next step of their research paper: research and note-taking: an important skill that students need to develop. Since thesis proposals were due today, students will learn about the next step on their own while I work with each students individually to revise their proposals if needed.
I give students the instructions for the rest of the lesson verbally. I pass out index cards and tell them to write down any questions they have about this phase as they read about it. These index cards will be collected at the end of class and reviewed with the class.
I instruct students to read about the second phase of the research paper silently. They can access this through my web-page and download the Research Booklet and read starting from page four. This phase focuses on acceptable sources, note taking and paraphrasing, and touches on plagiarism. Those are all skills students need to master in order to complete a well developed research paper. This part of the booklet also explains what areas of their topic's life they will need to take notes on. This helps them to begin to determine what main ideas and details are important as they start to amass their sources.
Students read silently and write down their questions while I work with individual students on their thesis proposals.
This video explains the use of phase two: Phase 2 Research Explanation
As students are working on reading about the next phase of the research project, I conference with students on their thesis statements and proposal. It's very important for students to have a clear focus as they research. I conference individually since they have individual needs. Some students need help with thesis statements and others need help with the proposal paragraph.
I try and call each student up one at a time. I briefly review their proposals and tell students what they need to work on. I try to keep these conferences brief for two reasons. I need to make sure I get to everyone in the class but I also want to see if they can make the revisions on their own. I will show them what needs to be fixed or changed and they will make the decisions on their how to do that. These individual conferences really help students to see their work as it needs to be seen. It allows students to internalize this as they can see their work as their own, and not what a teacher wants. I call each student up. They either bring a hard copy of their proposal or show it to me on their computer. I tell what to fix and they go back to revise it until it's complete. When they are done, they continue the work from earlier in the lesson, which was to learn about the next phase of the research project: researching and note taking.
The procedure for conferencing really depends on the environment. Sometimes I have students come to me, but that does not always create a student-centered environment. This makes it seems like the teacher is the end all and be all. Other times, I go to the student so they can feel a sense of worth in their writing. Middle school is all about perception.
Here are two examples of thesis proposals with my comments for revision:Sandy Koufax Thesis Proposal and Thomas Edison Thesis Proposal. In these examples you can see what students did and how I would guide them to create a solid thesis proposal.
I collect the index cards with the questions and answer them to close the lesson. I answer the questions students wrote down about phase two of the process. This serves as an almost exit-slip type assessment. This helps me determine if there are areas I need to review briefly or if there are areas I need to spend more time on. This helps students have their questions answered in a non-threatening manor. As I answer each question, I make sure students are paying attention.
Here is a list of the major questions that are shared during this process: Questions For Phase Two
This helps students to gain a voice in my classroom. Some students are very vocal about what they don't understand or when they are confused. Other students are not so forthcoming. This type of strategy allows me to reach all students in my classroom to check for understanding. It allows gives me the opportunity to see what areas I may need to cover more in detail. I also don't have to worry about repeating myself.