Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nonfiction Research and Argumentative Essays: Part 1

Last week, my class started the nonfiction research part of our nonfiction unit in reading workshop and we launched our Research Based Argumentative Essay unit in writing workshop.  This is the first post in a series about our Nonfiction Research and Argument Essay unit.

Students are in mini-research clubs and have chosen an issue to research by first choosing a topic that interests them and that they want to learn more about.  Then the narrowed that topic by identifying an issue/subtopic within the larger topic and an essential question that will guide their research.
Some of the issues my students are researching are:

  • Should students in elementary school have cellphones? 
  • Should elephants be entertainers in circuses?  
  • Should animals be grouped by species/type in zoos or mixed all together to form relationships with other animals? 
  • Should students under the age of 12 play contact sports? 
  • Should school cafeterias serve chocolate milk or only white milk?  
  • Is global warming causing polar bears to become endangered and possibly extinct? 

In the mini-research clubs, students are reading various articles/texts (hard copies and online) and watching video clips to research both sides and the evidence that supports both sides of the claim they are researching.  While reading and viewing, they are annotating the texts and taking organized notes in a separate research notebook.  Some students have chosen to create tabbed sections within the notebook to clearly mark the evidence they are collecting for both sides as well as a section for sources they are using.  Other students have chosen to not use tabbed sections but just label each page "For/Against, Pros/Cons, or Yes/No" depending on their essential question they are researching.  Some students are also color coding their notes by using one color pen for evidence "for" and another color pen for "against".  I love seeing how students are approaching the research and note-taking differently and sharing their strategies with one another - such powerful inquiry and learning from one another! 
Here are some photos of students' research notebooks and notes:  

Once students collect evidence to support both sides, they will make a decision of where they stand on the issue and will present their learning with their classmates in a presentation format of their choice.  For example, the mini-research clubs can organize a class debate, co-author a nonfiction book (narrative, hybrid) together using one of our read alouds as a mentor text, or can create a video or multi-media presentation.  In addition to this group presentation, each student is writing a research-based argumentative essay to support their claim during writing workshop.  Stay tuned to hear more about this writing unit this week! :)

Happy Researching! :)

1 comment:

  1. I read online about the problems of students copying/pasting from the internet. Research projects like this make it so that students have to take in information and process it into a coherent project. A copy/paste won't work.

    Fantastic idea!
    Janet |