Supporting Purpose in Research Papers

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SWBAT analyze drafts of research papers to determine if purpose has been addressed.

Big Idea

Why are you writing this research papers? No, it's not because the teacher tells you to. Looking at purpose in our writing.

Reading Time

10 minutes

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. 

Guided Instruction: Purpose

10 minutes

My students are very motivated to earn high grades, sometimes to the detriment of the writing process as they are focused on the grade and not the skills. I want them to realize that they need to think about their writing beyond the teacher's eyes. I want my students to internalize the idea of audience and purpose besides just the teacher's expectations. It's great when they know the organization and content of the writing they are producing, but it's also important for them to think about what the purpose is and who the audience is of each piece they write. This helps them move beyond looking at each assignment as a stepping stone to a certain grade.

Today's lesson has students thinking about their drafts of their research paper in terms of purpose. This is the beginning of a two day lesson, tomorrow's lesson focuses on audience.

I pull up the Purpose and Audience Powerpoint on the Smartboard. The first section of today's lesson looks at the second slide: Purpose Slide Screenshot. The directions are straight-forward. I explain the directions to the class as a whole. By this point in the year, I hope students are able to spend class time being productive. Instead of spoon-feeding them throughout certain processes, I explain to them each step with the hope that they can do it on their own. I explain the following questions to the class as a whole.

  • —In your own words and in a few sentences: What is the purpose of this paper? Why are writing the paper in the way it is written?
  • —How does your draft, as a whole, accomplish this purpose?
  • —Look at each paragraph, make a note explaining how/why each paragraph is needed to fulfill the purpose you mentioned. Why is the information you include needed?
  • —What information is included that does not relate to the purpose?

These can definitely be challenging questions and they will only work if students understand what purpose means. We have spent quite some time on this research paper and have reviewed the Research Booklet many times so students are aware of the purpose of a research paper. The challenge is going to be if they can apply the idea of purpose to their own writing as a stepping stone for revision, which will be done in the next section of the lesson. What I am looking for in this lesson is that they can put into words what they are trying to do in this paper. It's not sure to describe the life of an influential figure, but to analyze why and how they are considered influential.


Independent Practice: Looking At Purpose

23 minutes

I give students the rest of class time to work on the questions from the previous section, using their own research paper to look at purpose. They will answer the questions and then make notes in the draft of how each paragraph relates to the purpose of their paper. This is time to work independently based on the directions from the previous section of the lesson.

Here are student examples answering what their purpose is and how their paper accomplishes that purpose:

During this time, I circulate around the class room to make sure students are on task and offer individual help if needed. I hope that students can master this idea of purpose but it can be really tough for them to look at how certain details in their writing relate, or don't relate to the bigger picture. I think it's tough developmentally for students to analyze it in such a way. Purpose in writing can be an easy concept to understand but a tough one to master in one's own writing. As long as my students at least have a general exposure to this topic, I am fine with that if they all don't master it initially.

I purposely choose not to conference with each student as I want to see if they are able to do this on their own but occasionally, for some students they really need that teacher guided support. Looking at a student's work with with him/her and then eventually letting him/her doing this on their own can make a worlds of difference. I will look at a few paragraphs in a student's draft and explain how I think this fits the purpose. We will then look at a few paragraphs together and discuss them. The next step is for students to be able to do it on their own. It becomes a sort of gradual release.

Here are examples of students rough draft with notes focusing on purpose:

This video explains those two student examples: Purpose Video