Thursday, March 12, 2015

9th Grade I-Search Paper

The idea with this research assignment is that the students learn the skills of writing a high-quality research paper but through a high-interest topic.  The students pick their own area to research for this paper and write a question that will drive the entire unit for them.  Because all of their research and the unit of study will be based off this question, I try to give extensive instruction surrounding the writing of the question and allow them some time to research it a little and make certain that it is indeed worthy of a unit of study.  Here are the directions that I provide the students with:

For this assignment you will research either a career or life-long interest.  You will write your own research question in regards to either a career that you MAY be interested in pursuing or an interest that you plan to pursue in your future.

Brainstorm some careers/life-long interests that you might want to research here:
My examples:  English teaching, backpacking, yoga, travel, edible gardening

A research question will guide and focus your research.  It should be clear and focused.  The question should be something that you are interested in or care about.  Be careful to avoid the "all-about" paper or questions that can be answered in a few factual statements.


Too broad:
Why is being a yoga instructor a good career for me?
What hike should I do this summer?
Why should I travel?
Why is gardening important?
What does an English teacher do?
(These questions could hypothetically be answered without any research.)

Too specific:
How much will yoga teacher training cost me?
How many years of schooling are required to become an English teacher?
How long is the Timberline Trail vs. the Snow Lakes trail?
What are the main attractions in Utah?
What plants grow well in Washington?
(This question could be answered in one sentence and does not leave room for argument.  It could be answered with one simple internet search.)

Just right:
Which local yoga teacher training program would be best for me?
What level of English teaching would be most appropriate for me: middle or high school?
Which hike (Timberline or Snow Lakes) would best suit our group for a trip this summer?
Which attractions in Utah should my family visit over spring break in order to make the trip most enjoyable for all of us?
What plants should I put in our edible garden this year and why?
(This question requires research and will require me to take a stand based off that research.)

How to Write Your Research Question:
Start with your interest.  Do a little research about this - see what is out there about this subject.  What looks interesting to you.

Write your question here:

Use the following checklist to determine if your question is good:
  1. Is the research question something that I/others care about?  Is it arguable?
  2. Is the research question a new spin on an old idea or does it solve a problem?
  3. Is it too broad or too narrow?
  4. Is the research question reasonable within the given time-frame/location?

Finally:  Get approval from Mrs. Robison for your FINAL question.
Write this final question here:

I then check off every student's question - I want to make certain that they are starting off on the right foot.

The next day, I have the students break their larger question into mini-sub-questions that CAN be answered easily with minimal research.  Here is the assignment that I use to guide this activity:
In order to answer your larger research question, you will need to complete research and answer many smaller sub-questions.  Your job today is to write at least 10 sub-questions that will help you to answer your larger question.  These sub-questions should be very specific and should be something that you can answer with a sentence (or two) and with an internet search.  Follow the example done for you.

My Example:

Main Research Question
Which local yoga teacher training program would be best for me?
What are three local YTT programs?
What is the cost of three local YTT programs?
Where is the location of three local YTT programs?
What certification is offered by each YTT program?
What is the placement rate for three local YTT programs?
What certification is required by local studios to be teacher?
What are the dates/times of each YTT program?
Who teaches each of the YTT programs?
What reputation does each local YTT program have?
What opportunities to further my YTT would be offered after each program?
Which hike (Timberline, Three Sisters or Snow Lakes) would best suit our group for a trip this summer?
What is the drive distance to trailheads?
How are permits obtained and what is the likelihood of getting a permit?
What is the cost (if any of permits)?
What is the length/difficulty of each hike?
What are trail conditions like?
What wildlife might we encounter?
What special equipment, if any, is required?
Can we cache food and what is the process for that?
What campgrounds are available?
What are the conditions of the available campgrounds?
What would the legs of the trail be, given different backcountry camping spots?

Now…it's your turn…
Write Your BIG Research Question Here:
Write Your Ten Sub-Questions Here:











Add extra rows if needed.

The next day we begin to research.  We start by visiting the library and the librarian does a hands-on lesson over how to use Noodletools (an online citation source) - the kids cite their first source.  

The next day: I do an example source with notes and information about how to do MLA citations.  Here is my example for this first source:
For notes on each source, I ask students to complete a SOAPStone analysis and work to answer their sub-questions.  This is a procedure they are familiar with as they have completed it with our previous mini-research unit.

Now…it's time to locate you’re a research source.  Keep your sub-questions in mind.  Fill in this chart:

Article #1 Title and Link
Three Sisters Wilderness: Deschutes
Who is the author/writer of the piece?  Write the full name of the person/agency and what their job is, what education they have, what other texts they have written…  What do you know about this person?  What role do they play in relation to your topic?
United States Department of Agriculture: Forest Service
"We are a multi-faceted agency that manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 44 states and Puerto Rico. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations."
What is the time and place?  What prompted the speaker/writer to create this piece?  The context in which the document was created?  What is happening in the time and place that this document was created?
Website is updated daily
Informational piece about this wilderness area
Created for the government
The readers to whom this document is directed.  The audience may be one person, or a large group; it may be a certain person or a certain people.
Internet - public document open to anyone
What is the reason behind the text?  Why was it written?  What goal did the author have in mind?
To inform people of conditions in this area
What is the general topic, content, or idea contained in the text?  Summarize in at least one complete sentence.
Trail conditions in the Three Sisters Wilderness area
What is the attitude expressed by the speaker towards the subject?
Examine the choice of words & the emotions expressed to determine the speakers attitude.

Step Two: Extract a minimum of three quotes from this source that help to answer your sub-questions.  Fill in this chart - fill in ONLY quotes that help to answer your sub-questions.  Answer as many sub-questions as possible:

Cut and Paste your Sub-Questions Here:
Source (author's last name)
Explanation/significance.  Explain the quote in your own words - how does this quote help you to answer your larger research question.
    What is the drive distance to trailheads?
Closest Towns: Bend, OR and Sisters, OR.

5 hours 26 minutes to Bend


Google Maps
This is a long drive time and would require that we add two days to our trip - one for travel there and another to travel back.
    How are permits obtained and what is the likelihood of getting a permit?
Wilderness Permits are required for both day use and overnight stays from Memorial Day Weekend until Oct. 31. Free permits are self-issued at the trailhead.

It sounds like permits are pretty easy to obtain - no lottery.
    What is the cost (if any of permits)?
Free permits are self-issued at the trailhead.

Some trailheads require a recreation pass. Check our Recreation Passes & Permits page for details. 

Any way that we can make this trip less expensive will help us out.
    What is the length/difficulty of each hike?

    What are trail conditions like?
Major peaks are: the North, Middle, and South Sisters (all above 10,000'), along with Broken Top, the best example in the Pacific Northwest of the effect of glaciation. Collier Glacier is the largest glacier in Oregon. Other geologic features include Rock Mesa, Collier Cone, and Yapoah Crater. Alpine meadows, waterfalls, lava fields, glaciers, and glacial lakes are abundant.

Forest in this Wilderness consists mainly of Douglas-fir, silver fir, sub-alpine fir, mountain hemlock, western hemlock, true fir, lodgepole pine, and ponderosa pine. Alpine meadows are abundant. 

My husband will be really into seeing all of these different types of trees, while I really enjoy waterfalls, lakes and meadows.
    What wildlife might we encounter?

    What special equipment, if any, is required?

    Can we cache food and what is the process for that?

    What campgrounds are available?

What are the conditions of the available campgrounds?

    What would the legs of the trail be, given different backcountry camping spots?

Here are my notes on that first source; I use these as a model with the students.  From here on out, each day the students research, cite and take notes on a source.  They do this until they have the requisite 4 sources for the paper.
On the next day we take notes, model and write three different kinds of thesis statements:

The list thesis statement: students answer their research question directly and list the topic of their three body paragraphs as part of the thesis.

The side-by-side statement: This is the only kind of thesis statement that I teach that has multiple sentences.  For this style, the kids write two sentences.  The first sentence states the topic they are writing on and the second sentence states their opinion about that topic.

Finally, I teach a semi-colon topic sentence.  This is simply a more advanced sentence structure for a thesis statement.  I teach the students how to use semi-colons to replace conjunctions and use this structure in a thesis.

We takes notes, model and write each style of thesis statement.

The next day, the students write a basic outline for their paper.  It looks like this:
They fill it in with the best thesis (from the previous day's lesson) - three body paragraph topics adn then 9 different pieces of evidence from their research.

Now we are ready to really write.  We start with notes and modeling of the introduction paragraph.  Here are my notes and sample on that.  When I write model paragraphs, as much as possible I try to keep my writing near the grade-level average of the students I am teaching.

Students write their introduction paragraphs.  The next day we complete a peer edit of the introduction.  Here are the instructions I provide for the peer edit:

At this point, some students need to catch up and many students could have already written the entire essay.  I am a firm believer in NOT allowing students to fall through the cracks.  We pause for a day and I put the kids in groups.  I place each student who is missing an element of the process at this point in a group with 2-3 students who are "experts" or at least who are on track.  The job for the day if for the "experts" to help their group-mates to get on track as well.  I was a bit wary of this assignment, but it work PHENOMENALLY and I will be doing this again.  Here is the PowerPoint slide that I had up as we started this activity:

Many of the students were completely caught up after this activity and ALL of them completed at least one portion of the research assignment that they had missed.

The next day we look at notes/examples of the first body paragraph.  Here are my notes on this:

Here is the transition handout that I reference:

I always try to provide notes, model and then let the kids have some work time.

Next: notes, model and work time for the conclusion.  Here are those notes:

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