Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Behind the Books: Stepping Up to Research, Step 1

According to new findings from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, the best nonfiction writing occurs when early-elementary research experiences are scaffolded as follows:

1. Organize and categorize information 
     (a) based on personal experiences
     (b) on a topic students care deeply about
2. Organize, categorize, and compare observations.

3. Conduct guided research.

4. Conduct cold research.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at each of these steps in detail and suggesting activity ideas.

For Step 1, topics like “My Baby Brother” or “My Dog” or “My Mom” or “My School” work best. These are topics kids know about as a result of their everyday interactions. So the struggle isn’t related to gathering information, it’s related to organizing it into a piece of writing that flows in a logical way. (As an added bonus, this assignment might teach children knew about their relationships or family dynamics.)

This kind of assignment works better than “write what you know” because young students might think they know a lot about frogs, but when it comes down to it, there are bound to be gaps in their knowledge, and that’s a problem at this level.

This assignment also works better than “write something you could teach” because, let’s face it, rehashing the rules of soccer is pretty boring.

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