For the past two weeks, my kiddos have engaged in a research project about an animal they hope to observe when we go on our annual class field trip to the NC Zoo. It has been an exhilarating and exhausting effort. It was a very successful effort even if I only considered what I learned! I’m not talking about animal facts. I learned so much about the use of technology in the classroom! I was amazed by the knowledge that these sixth graders bring with them in their use of technology to find information. What surprised me was their gullibility. They believed EVERYTHING they read on the Internet!
As I conferenced with each child, I borrowed a technique from Writing Pathways , a book by Lucy Calkins. In this book, she suggests the use of at least one compliment and a Next Step. After all, it is our intention that we grow as readers and writers. In this way, I am saying something encouraging as well as giving a goal for the student to be working toward in their next piece. For most of my students in this particular project, the most needed next step is the use of an introduction. Most of the students made a title slide and then jumped right into a series of slides that listed facts and interesting details about their animal. Very few of them had an introduction that let the audience know what to expect to learn about during the presentation.
Last week, we visited the library and checked out reference materials. MOST of my students didn’t realize you could find information about specific topics in an encyclopedia. We read. Then we read. Then we read some more. We researched, took notes, and wrote up what we had discovered about our animals. This week, we shared through Gallery Walks and peer conferences, we revised, we learned about how to cite books and websites, and we published. (All but one of my students decided to use Google Slides as their publishing platform.) Here are a few of the diverse topics and levels of student abilities.
Sandy was so proud of her work.
We gave feedback to each other at the end of each presentation. These were given to each student so that they could make a final revision before submitting the project.
Overall, I was very pleased with each student’s project. They learned a lot about paraphrasing, analyzing sources, and citations. I learned that even though writing is an arduous undertaking, it is well worth the effort. I used to be so overwhelmed by the writing process. I believe that was true because writing is such a personal activity, but it is a social activity at the same time. It was hard for me to wrap my head around my role as a teacher of writing when everyone was in such differing places as writers. Now I see the absolute necessity of conferencing with my students, pulling small groups, providing mentor texts, and encouraging peer collaboration. My students and I enjoyed this project and are looking forward to the next.