Tuesday, October 2, 2012

#EngChat Applications

Last night I was inspired by the #EngChat Twitter conversation about transforming research from a bore to an alive, authentic processChris Lehman moderated the chat based off of his new book, Energize Research Reading and Writing, which is a get-your-hands-dirty, practical guide to help students think while learning.  As the CCSS demands more non-fiction reading and writing and our staff is thinking through Webb's Depth of Knowledge, this topic could not be more relevant and timely. Last night, educators from across the globe talked about the process of research, the difficulties of guiding students into thinking versus copying, and the exciting ideas to keep students excited about learning.   Some of my favorite take-aways/thoughts that I am still mulling over from last night are:
  •   As adults, when we research, we wander, explore, and read.  Do we give kids enough time to explore and play with texts before forcing a topic? 
  • Questions that students ponder can/should be the primary focus of research to make it relevant and meaningful.  Do we provide students enough choice?
  • Students must have an authentic audience with whom to share their research/ideas.  Do we create authentic experiences for students to share their work? 
  • Research is about habits of mindthinking, learning, exploring.  We do it every day.  We must teach students the skills and strategies to be lifelong learners in this technology driven world.  Do we guide students through critical viewing of sources enough?
Some ideas that I am pondering that were brilliant suggestions from educators during #Engchat: 
  • Ask older students to research a topic to teach to a younger grade.  Students could go to a lower grade level to teach the topic or subject to them.  (@hawkteach assigns this task to sophomores to teach fourth grade lessons- I love this idea!) 
  • Provide time for students to collect ideas and sift through topics.  Guide students through many forms of rehearsing:  drafting, note-taking, gathering of information.  Focus on the process, not just the product.
  • Use the website, Wonderopolis, to broaden and engage students' curiosity. 
  • Encourage students to carry their notebooks around with them throughout the day and jot down questions, ideas, and thoughts in a section titled "Wondering". 
This is just the tip of the iceberg!  If this inspires you to read more, click here to see an archive conversation of the chat.  Start at the bottom and work your way up. You won't regret it (though it is 74 pages, so grab a coffee and make yourself comfortable)! 

At my school, in one of my small groups, students are planning topics for a research project.   We are currently immersing ourselves in non-fiction text to: develop a purpose for reading and researching, identify important text features that readers (and writers) use, and create products that will be authentic to an established audience. 

First students studied and identified common features of non-fiction and how those features help the reader to understand and navigate the text.  This will be a running chart to which we add throughout the year.  The "my turn" part of the chart is for students to explore how they may want to utilize that feature within their own writing.  Students noticed that not all non-fiction texts contain every feature, so they are able to choose which ones best fit their topic/purpose. 

We used Chris's strategy, "a lot, some, little" to explore topics that we may want to research, and students have experimented in the Media Center to begin finding information that may suit their  guiding questions with purpose.  Actual research will begin next week, and the mini-lessons will revolve around:  main idea, note-taking, content-specific vocabulary, and thinking through the reading.  Students are excited about their topics, and I'm excited for them!   

Next, you can see that a few students started planning out their products.  Many students are choosing to create a book.  Aidan, for example, is researching dinosaurs, and he has already decided his headings and his structure.  He will be setting up his book sequentially.  As he does his research, therefore, he will have a specific focus of the information that he needs to gather.  Johyun, on the other hand, is ready to research Korean language, and she is doing a mix of structures about the history of Korean language and the process of learning it.  I'm still thinking of ways that students can present their products to different audiences.   I'm inspired from my learning last night; my head is spinning with new ideas. 


Thanks to Chris Lehman, Meenoo Rami and the Twitter Chat community for the inspiration to bring research to a new level.  I hope to expand this thinking and learning by coaching content area teachers to pick up some of these strategies as they begin to assign research projects, too. 

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