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.
Since students are creating a large amount of note cards for their research project, it's beneficial to give them time in class to work on them. By doing so, I can make sure students are on the right path. The path that students need to be on in this stage is amassing sources, gathering pertinent information, and turning that information into note cards, which will eventually be used for a solid outline and then a cohesive rough draft. This lesson is not exactly for the structured teacher as they are many students at many different stages of the research. I have no problem with students working in different ways as they figure out what would be best for them. Some are just gathering sources, others are making note cards for each source as they gather them. By giving students a little freedom, although it can be scary with middle-schoolers, they begin to take ownership of their own learning.
I tell students that they have the rest of class time to work on their note cards. We have already spent time learning about them so there is no need to review the expectations for the note cards. Rather, I tell students they will be working for the entire class period and I remind them they need to be productive.
As students are working, I circulate around the classroom to make sure they are on task and being productive. I also offer assistance when needed. Since I consider this entire project an independent study, I really try to allow students to figure things out on their own. I will offer assistance when absolutely needed but my goal is that they can do this work on their own.
Many of the questions asked and the assistance that is needed can benefit from reviewing various resources students. I first tell students to review the Research Booklet to answer any questions about the project and expectations. Some students need reminders of the format of note cards and source cards. For this, I refer them back to the Notecards and Sourcecards Format and Structure handout that they can also access through my web-site.
One question that comes up is starting note cards. They may have sources but they lack the ability to start creating them. For this, I tell students to create a list of topics that they think may be good subjects. Once they create that list, I can conference with them on that list and help them narrow down topics. Once they have their subject heading they can then go back to their sources to find their information. Here are two examples of those lists: Bill Gates Notecards Subjects and Esther Williams Notecards Subjects. This video explains how I would conference with those students regarding their lists: Subject Lists Explanation