There is so much information available to read and learn about. How could we ever expect our kids to take a topic and efficiently find the information they need to create a great report? The first step is to help them focus their research by brainstorming subtopics that connect to their main topic.
Before this lesson, I assigned students research topics using the request letter they submitted. I also chose a topic that noone else wanted that I could use to model with throughout this unit. I chose a region of the country we are studying.
I start this lesson by telling students that they each have a topic and so do I. Even though my topic is just one of the many topics about this country that we are going to study as a class, I still feel like my topic is so big that I don't know where to start to find information. The first thing I need to do is figure out the smaller topics or subtopics that I could focus on.
I demonstrate this by write down the topic as a title. I began to think aloud, "Hmmm...what are some even smaller topics that would fit or match this topic? What might someone want to know about?" I create a list of a few ideas: business, population, plants, cities, rivers, etc.
This is how I model the need to stop and think and then write down everything that comes to mind. I can revise later.
After I model how to think and write down subtopics, I ask students to help me think of a few more. I say to them, "What else could I focus on? What else do you want to know about? What else would someone else want to know about this topic?"
Students share their ideas and I add them to my list. Students share things like: landforms, historical events or sites, tourism, things to do, agriculture, etc.
Finally, they will get a chance to try it out by first doing their own thinking and then by working with a partner to make an even longer list of ideas in the same way they helped me. They should actually write these ideas down either on a separate piece of paper or in a writing journal.
After students brainstorm a list of possible topics, I take a quick poll on how many subtopics students were able to come up with. I ask them to raise their hands if they have less than 5, more than 5, more than 10. This is a quick way of assessing whether or not students where successful at creating subtopics. If I noticed that most students had very few, I might give some advice or support and a few more minutes to come up with more.
To share and continue to build engagement in the project, I ask them to look through their list and share which topic they are most interested in learning more about. I then call on a few students to share with the class. sharing can help the students who couldn't really think of many topics. It might spark more ideas or they might realize that they are also interested in the same or a similar topic as a peer.