Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Research Paper: Explore Day 1

It's that time of year.  The dreaded formal research paper.  I do what we call a No Paper Research Paper because with Evernote and Google Docs, we use no paper.  Last year, I did the research paper unit as a traditional flip.  I frontloaded all the videos before addressing that portion of the research paper.  For example, the kids would watch a video on choosing a topic, or writing a thesis statement, then the next day in class would go through that process.  This year, I wanted to convert this unit to an Explore Flip Apply (EFA) unit.  I'll admit, I have a loose plan going in because I feel that is a key component of the explore stage - determining what the students already know.  So, I envision this unit as a series of EFA activities until the final apply stage is writing their research paper.

Today, I did the first explore with my 7th graders.  The first activity was having the students pull up the website  If you aren't familiar with the site, it is a website with fake information about explorers.  The site looks very credible and the information is almost believable enough to make you wonder about its accuracy.  I had them choose any of the explorers and give a quick read of the information. Three of four minutes of silent reading passed. Some students looked a bit perplexed but kept reading. Suddenly a student says out loud, "Wait a says here he was killed with an AK-47?"  I played dumb and said, "Really? You don't believe that?"  Then another student said, "Mine says he thought he discovered America but then realized he was already there?" Then the flood came: "Mine says he was born in America but he was a Spanish explorer" "Mine said he traveled from 1690 to 1657."  This led into a quick discussion about trusting what you read on the internet.

The next activity in the explore phase was having the students look up a Wikipedia page of something they know a lot about.  We had 6 or 7, One Direction searches, a Kate Middleton search (did you know today is her birthday?), a Notre Dame football search (was a good example of how current Wikipedia can be with information), and a variety of other searches.  I asked students to give a quick read through the page they selected.

The next activity was a free write on 4 questions:
  1. Is this information accurate?
  2. How do you know or why do you believe that?
  3. Is the site well written?
  4. Why or why not?
 We finished the class with the free write.  Tomorrow, we'll discuss their answers in the free write and guide the discussion toward how to check for accuracy of information.

The next steps depending on how the discussion goes tomorrow:
  1. More exploration of evaluating sources will probably be needed later in the unit.
  2. A discussion or free write on how the writing on Wikipedia is different from other writing.
  3. A exploration/discussion of writing without bias using the same Wikipedia site.
  4. An extension activity of revising and editing an actual Wikipedia page for some writing and accuracy practice before starting the research paper.
  5. All this will lead into an exploration activity of choosing a topic and that is when the actually research paper "begins".