Research Basics—Crafting an Essential Question and Claim

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SWBAT craft a research question and claim by revisiting the elements of culture in order to craft their question and claim.

Big Idea

Students will revisit elements of past projects to develop an essential question and claim for an argumentative essay.

Introduction to the Celebration of Learning

Let's Get Started: Revisiting Culture and Identity

10 minutes

As the student arrive, the powerpoint is already on the board.  They immediately start looking through their class binder to find their five aspects of culture.  Their second unit presentation was on their perceptions of culture and cultural identity. They had to chose five aspects of culture to frame their presentation.  These aspects are based on a list the class generated.

I give them time to review what they said way back in August and then write about how their thinking has evolved over the school year. It is important for them to think through how their understanding of each aspect has grown this year.  They will develop one of these aspects into an essential question that they will answer as the final writing assessment of the school year. They need to be comfortable and confident in their selection.  

I call on a few students to share their reflections.

Today is a busy day. Since this is the last unit of the year, it gives the students the opportunity to synthesize their learning.  Students are going to complete quite a few quick writes (opportunities to spew ideas on to a page).  They are going to develop an essential question that will for a argumentative research paper (W 9-10. 5). One of their aspects of culture will be the foundation for their essential question.  The goal of this essay is to synthesize their learning and skills for producing writing from developing a topic, crafting a claim, researching evidence to support a claim, and using counterclaims.  The summative assessment is the essay, however I will be assessing the steps they use to write their paper as we move through the process.  Hopefully, by the end of class, they will have an essential question and draft claim that they can develop into a research proposal. 

I want to see how well they can work independently, engage with their peers as needed, and develop questions to facilitate writing their paper.  

Building Knowledge: What is an Essential Question?

45 minutes

Before, they can create an essential question, the students have to understand the function of an essential question in the research process.  Slides three to ten on the EQ overview and claims powerpoint walks the students through the process of developing their EQ. One of the writing techniques I have practice over and over again with the students is turning the topic into a question.  Then students write to answer the question. Therefore, to start their final extend writing assignment, we begin by developing a question from a topic of the student's choice. 

 We begin with what is an essential question.  I give them a definition and they discuss it with their shoulder partner (SL 9-10. 1).  I also remind them that we have used essential questions all year.  The EQ for the first unit is on the the powerpoint slide. After a few minutes, I ask for volunteers to share their answers.

Next we look at some examples of different types of EQs on slide 4. I what point out that everyone can answer these questions. However answers will vary based on evidence and the personal experience of the writer.  

Slide four gives them a list of qualities of a good EQ.  As I go through them, I have the students write them down. They can use the list as a checklist when they write their own EQs. I will spend a few minutes discussing Truth with a capital T.  It will lead to stronger discussions of the rhetorical appeals and bias when we get to research and writing.

It is time to focus on EQ development, specifically developing a "self-generated question" as CC standard W.9-10.7 notes.  I ask them to review their writing at the beginning of class.  I encourage them to pick the topic that interests them the most or the top two. I show them an example of free writing I did to help me think through my choices. Then I give them time to do some free writing about their potential topics.  This free writing time is so they can get the clutter out of their head and determine what they want to have as a focus for their EQ (W 9-10. 4).

After they have been writing for a few minutes, I give them the option of also collaborating with their partner to choose a topic.  Some students may have to spend more time exploring the question.  They have a topic but need to devise a question.  I encourage them to use the checklist to make before they write their questions on the board. 

Now, we go around the room and everyone gives question report out. After they say their self-generated question, either myself or one of their peers can supply suggestions or feedback. 


Building Knowledge: Project Overview and Research Basics

10 minutes

Now that they have an essential question, they need to know what to do with it.  I pass out the final EQ paper that explains in detail the requirements for the essay.  Also slide 11 briefly goes over all the parts to the Cultural Visions project.  

Getting this project done is going to be all about pacing.  I need an extra week or eight fewer students.  Neither is going to happen so I have to pace my instruction and model time management. 

I review some of the research basics from other units (Maus and Things Fall Apart).  I specially want to touch on plagiarism and creating citations (W 9-10.8).  We have steadily worked on incorporating citations into a text all year. So, I want to remind them of the expectations of the class and that they have the skills to meet them.

 Next I go into the details of the essay and the specific types of evidence I want them to use. While the internet and the databases available are valuable sources, I also expect them to use books, perhaps interviews, and fiction and other literary sources (W 9-10. 8).  


Building Knowledge: Writing a Research Proposal

15 minutes

The final section of the EQ overview is on writing a research proposal.  I go over the requirements of the proposal which are to state the EQ, a claim, and counterclaims.  I tell them the next class will focus on developing claims and counterclaims.  

I want them to write a proposal so they can think through their EQ, claims, counterclaims, and opportunities for research (W.9-10.1a and W.9-10.7). Also they will share their proposals and flyers to get additional feedback from the class. 

The also have to create a flyer with the question on it and images that reflect their thinking on their question. 

Wrap Up: Crafting a Claim and Homework

10 minutes

Finally, I give them the handout of crafting a claim.  We ask them to define claim.  A claim is a subject plus a strong verb plus an opinion about the subject. It is the claim formula. I developed this formula after attending a writing workshop. I had to teach a lesson on writing a claim. It was a success at the workshop and I have been using it ever since. Students can plug in their ideas and at least have a draft they can build from.  We also discuss that claims need to respond to the prompt.  

For their EQ, I am really trying to address the Common Core focus on gradual release.  With the exception of counterclaims, we have encountered all of the standards and skills necessary to write their essays. The essay synthesizes our learning for the year, so I want them to work as independently as possible.  I assign writing a claim and the reasons for choosing that claim for homework.  However I tell them if they need help or feedback from me or a peer, they can come to afternoon conference (tutoring time).  My classroom door is always open.