What Do You Want to Know?? Picking a Topic for an Informational Report

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SWBAT explain the difference between a thick question and a thin question in preparation for writing a report on a topic of their choice.

Big Idea

The ability to find, locate and communicate information about a topic is an essential life skill.

Make Your Own Top Ten

15 minutes

My district requires that students maintain a writing portfolio from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The writing portfolio prompts at each level are the same for all students to ensure consistency for all students and teachers.  The portfolio prompt for this nine weeks is to write an informational report.  This is the second time my students have written reports for their writing portfolios, but this time, they get to research and write on a topic of their choice.  Today's lesson finds them thinking about what they want to write about.  

When the students enter the room, I have a quick write waiting for them to get their juices flowing.  I give the students about ten minutes to complete their quick write and then we begin to discuss our new portfolio piece.  

After the students complete their quick write- and believe me, this is no easy task, we share some of the things they came up with.  I want them to share because during the time they were writing, many students were having difficulty and I figured sharing with each other would unlock some of their thinking.

When students are sharing, I encourage the others to record ideas they might also be interested in studying.  At this point, I just wanted everyone to write something and it did work to an extent because when someone said they wanted to study chihuahuas, someone else said, "Oh!  I want to do shi tzus!!"  When another kiddo said they wanted to research Michael Jordan, another person said, "Oh!!  Lebron James!!"


Thick or Thin??

40 minutes

After the share out, I have students choose one of their topics and circle it.  I then tell them that the next step is to write as many questions as they can think of about that topic.  We talk about "thick" questions vs. "thin" questions and that we need to include lots of "thick" questions.  

I pass out the question practice paper and allow students some time to complete the top part only.  We then take time to discuss the answers and make sure they are getting an understanding of thick and thin questions.  When I have the students complete the bottom, I give them some time and a topic because I've already learned that giving them too much choice causes problems!!  The topic I gave my kiddos was to ask a question of their shoulder partner.

It takes students about fifteen minutes to complete the bottom questions.  Once it seems as though everyone is done, I have students turn to their shoulder partners and actually ask the questions.  It is up to the partner to decide if the question is indeed thick or thin.  I have my shoulder partners star the paper if they feel the questions are correct.  We do this two times so each partner gets to ask and evaluate two questions.

I collect the question practice so I can see if students can write these types of questions.  I want the next lesson to be them starting to write questions, but I need to know if they're able to first.  After I collect the questions, I tell the students to pick one topic from their Top Ten list to research and send them on their way contemplating all the things they're about to learn.