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.
Students are working independently and out of class to create note cards for their research project. This is a valuable tool as it helps them organize their information, which will help them write a solid outline. The problem I noticed as many students begin to do this work was creating the subject headings for these note cards. These subjects are important because it will help them classify their information into categories which makes the outline and paper itself easier to complete. I wanted them to master this skill so, I developed this lesson.
I begin by giving direct instruction on how to create subjects. I put up the Subjects For Notecards on the Smartboard (and here are pictures of those notes Subjects For Notecards Notes 1 and Subjects For Notecards Notes 2). These notes I explain to the students verbally. They remind students of what is important to put on a note card as a subject.
I remind students that they do not want to be too general that the information can be found in multiple areas of a source, but also not too specific where they will only have one or two bullets of information. This helps the students think about their information with a more critical eye. When they are given parameters like this in terms of quantity, it then allows them to to think about the information in terms of quality, and in this case the quality of the subject.
I then review with students the major information they will want to include in the paper. This information includes life of their topic, affect on society, legacy, awards, accomplishments, etc. This information is found on the second slide of notes. This allows students to think about the information as they go through their sources throughout this process of writing the paper and determine what is important. It's hard to give them more specific information as each student is researching a different person. It also gives them an opportunity to begin to make decisions as to what specific information would best help them prove their thesis, which focuses on the impact of their topic.
Once students know what they need to do to create subjects, the next step is to model that. I have students work collaboratively to look at various subjects I have created so they can make the decision as to whether or not they will be acceptable subjects to include on a note card. This allows students to think about the subjects so they can begin making decisions for their own note cards and think about the subjects they are working with.
I pass out the Acceptable Not Acceptable Subjects Worksheet to the class. I tell the students that they will work in groups (assigned by seating location) to fill out. They will look at each possible subject and with their groups determine whether or not that will be an acceptable for a note card. This allows them to see this idea of subjects in context. They can also work collaboratively so they can begin to internalize these ideas rather than relying on me.
This video explains the use of the worksheet: Acceptable Not Acceptable Worksheet Explanation
As students are working I circulate around the classroom to manage their behavior. Here are two examples of groups working: Acceptable Subjects Discussion 1 and Acceptable Subjects Discussion 2. In these videos use can see students attempting to defend the choices they made. This task in the lesson encourages students to practice a claim and defend it. It may be done in a minor but it helps them to practice that skill of argument that the Common Core heavily emphasis.
When groups are done working, I bring the class together. As I group I review each one and give them my opinion on whether or not the subject would be acceptable. Many times the disagreements that arise come from the topics students are researching. I review why it would be an acceptable source or not depending on the topic. I also tell them any exceptions.
With time permitting, we can then revise any of the subjects that are not acceptable so they can work as a subject for a note card.