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.
The next step of the research project that students are ready for once they have narrowed down their thesis statements is to create note cards and source cards. These serve as a way for students to narrow down their thinking and organize their information after they have compiled it from various sources. I use notecards because it's a great visual tool for students to use. Since they will be using different sources, the process of the research paper can be daunting but note cards helps them to break down the information and collect it one place. It also helps them to avoid plagiarism.
I pull up the Notecards and Sourcecards document on the Smartboard. I review the document with the class by explaining each part of it. The first few pages show students how to create source cards in MLA format. This allows the students to keep information on their source organized as they continue to research. Eventually, they will be able to use these source cards to create their works cited page.
Then I review the last few pages of the document that focuses on note cards. This serves as a model. We review the Notecard Model so students can see the proper format to use when their make notes. Students have access to the entire document throughout the entire process as it is on my web-site. When students find information from their sources that will help them, they create these note cards to hold on to the information. The bulk of the explanation is showing students the proper format of a note card. I follow the format in the document as it help students focus on key details from their text and it also begins the process to avoid plagiarism. They turn the information they found into note form and eventually then can then turn it in their own research.
I read this document out loud to the class and students follow along for this part of the lesson.
I also review the Notecard Rubric so students know how they will be assessed when they are due. This rubric was passed on to me from another teacher but I use it because I think it's a very straightforward way to assess these note cards. Since each students is creating 50 notecards and I will be looking at them, the grading process needs to be easy and the rubric helps with that.
Since this process can be rather time-extensive, I want to make sure students are doing this properly before they hand their note cards and source cards in. Eventually they will need a total of 50 note cards. Since that is a large amount, I want to make sure any issues are solved before they reach that goal. The rest of the class is devoted to students working independently as they practice creating note cards and source cards. I can help solve any issues that occur before it's too late and I can make sure students are on the correct path to creating all 50 of these note cards. The million dollar question students ask, is why 50? Isn't that a lot? My answer is yes. It is. I would much rather my students have too much information when they write their 6 page research paper and not enough. Having 50 always them to really understand their person's life and then helps them to make decisions about what to include in the paper. If they have a lot less than 50, their options are limited.
I tell students they will have the rest of class to work on note cards and source cards. They should have sources with them so they can begin this process. As students are working independently, I circulate around the class room to make sure they are following the proper format. Most students ask questions about the subject of their note cards so I conference with them and help them determine which title would be best. Usually they are too general so we work together to narrow it down. We work together by discussing how much information would be on that note card. If it appears to be a lot we then discuss other subjects that are more specific.
This video explains what I would discuss when I conference with students: Notecard Explanation.
Notecard Conference Example is a video that discusses a rich conference with a student.
Here are some examples of student note cards from the lesson: