Concurrently with our look at the works of The Enlightenment (see unit: "Literacy: Rhetorical Devices and Revolutionary Thinking"), students are drawing from the examples modeled by these authors to craft their own argumentative research paper.
I greet students at the door and hand them copies of the first page of their research paper directions. Dressed to fit in for "Western Day," I compliment the students who participated, but I do not single out those who chose not to. As with all activities the first few minutes of class, participating in Western Day as the daily holiday serves to continue the sense of community in my classroom.
Most of my students have been exposed to the research process, our Middle School curriculum requires a large career research project and freshman English I requires drawing valid information from teacher-provided sources. Vertically, we utilize Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting, as it is the most common used in English and Rhetorical classes nation-wide. Additionally, if students learn one style, the skills needed to locate, judge, and cite information translate to any "style" of formatting.
To instruct or re-teach the basics of creating an MLA citation, I read through the second page of the research paper packet with them, "Step II: Finding Sources." As an example, I provide a model of a website citation for the students using a website provided. While students have the model, they are asked to "reverse engineer" the citation, and locate where this information is on the packet. My sample topic is "Teachers Should be Paid More."
Rather than a full packet, listing everything they need to do for a research paper, as our department has traditionally done, I have broken it down into separate pages for each step. Today is "Step II: Find and Cite Sources" to avoid plagiarism in the students' writing (W.9-10.8) and use the evidence located to begin planning to develop claims and counterclaims fairly (W.9-10.1b).
Students are provided with copies/print outs of two more articles, one drawn from an electronic database proving information on merit pay for teachers, and one drawn from a book supporting my topic (both reprinted under fair use). With a partner, students create sample source cards for the two sources I provide. Students are given ten minutes to find all of the information they need, and challenged not to look at the answers they have been given, but rather attempt to compose the source card using the model. As students seek their examples, I circulate the room gauging completion and focus, as well as offering advice/clarification (such as how to credit multiple authors). Following a standard format for citation helps students avoid plagiarism in their writing. As with the first section of the lesson, this modeling is to show how to gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively (W.9-10.8) and use that evidence to begin planning to develop claims and counterclaims fairly (W.9-10.1b).
While I circulate the classroom, I asked a few "ringers" (students who had completed the process and whom I knew would speak aloud in class) to go to the board and write out their examples. I want to prepare students for public speaking, giving them an opportunity to present information so that the class can follow the line of reasoning (SL.9-10.4). There are two citations in each class, this should take about ten minutes, or five minutes for each sample card.
An explanation of what we will be doing tomorrow (and the following two days) in class:
1. Meet in the library, not the classroom. Check in with me when you arrive.
2. The librarian will explain where they can look for information--remember, we are only looking for sources, not information yet.
3. If you are using the computers, you should be using the electronic databases. Do not use Google to search. Understanding and utilizing databases is part of this project.
4. When you find a source you think you can use, scan/skim/SQ3R it; you are looking for sources to support you paper.
5. Once you know you can use the source, begin a source card for it.
6. Remember where the source is/how to get to it!
7. Source cards are due by the end of the period on Friday.
Today's two-minute warning consists of reminders:
1. Have 15 index cards for tomorrow!
2. If you have not had your topic approved, have that tomorrow, as well!