So without further ado, here's my Thursday Throw Down contribution for February!
Because we are in an ELA curriculum cycle and have adopted the CCSS, last year 7th grade English at my school invited the research paper back into the game. I had dropped it eight or nine years ago; students researched for speeches in their Communications class; they researched for History Day; and they also did an infectious disease report for Health. So, I let it be and happily went on my way with creative writing.
Oh, how the times have changed! While we still have units on free-verse and narrative non-fiction (two of my favorites!) our students write many more essays through the year, and they also take a big stab at research.
My special education co-teacher and I wrote for and got a grant last spring, and we've been working on ways to meaningfully integrate technology into our curriculum. One observation we made last year is that our reluctant writers more often than not had an easier time writing when they could type. That observation has been the same over and over again this year.
Last year, our new thing was our district's Google Docs, which is called Collaboration Station, or Collab for short. We taught the kids how to create an account, how to make folders and documents + share with us, and they began to write major papers on Collab. In turn, we also had a learning curve in grading: to print or not to print. What would it be like to not red-pen (or for most of us, purple-pen!) everything? Well, we dove in, and we love it. We still print rubrics for grading, but we read student work online, comment on it online, and I add GRADED to the title of their essay once I'm done.
We also wanted to try some sort of digital note card last year, so I made a template on Collab for students to upload and use. I did this for source cards, too, and this is how they looked.
It worked, but it wasn't the greatest when it came time to organize the note cards, which were all made in the Presentation mode of Collab. We could move the slides up and down, but it still wasn't quite what we wanted in terms of organization.
Enter Noodle Tools! Several teachers, including Carly who teaches both 7th and 8th English, started experimenting with Noodle Tools. I listened and liked what they had to say, but I didn't have the time to check it out. When we began planning for January this year, we knew we wanted to use Noodle across 7th grade English for research, and it was absolutely fantastic!
Last post, I wrote about finally being back at school after winter break and two cold days. We had tackled practicing making online citations in Noodle and creating note cards.
Three more cold days later and the rest of the month of January, we are finally done! Our schedule was planned to go something like this: (each day is a 50 minute period of class)
3 days: introduction including learning Noodle, practicing citations/cards, talking plagairism
5 days: research using online databases our school subscribes to
1-2 days: organizing note cards, outlining, thesis writing, talking about paragraphing, looking at exemplars
3 days: typing the paper in class, introducing in-text citations, introductions,& conclusions
We didn't have time for peer editing, but instead for the second year, we extended an invitation to parents via email to "parent edit" their kiddo's work and let us know via email or a note to earn their kid 3 pts extra credit. This is an awesome way to communicate to parents, bridge school and home, and make the kids happy :)
Well, it sort of panned out that way. We had to do some fancy footwork due to the scattered snow days (and Robin and I were out a day for our Special Ed/mainstream teaching cohort...and I was out a day for a district ELA Lead Teacher meeting...) so it felt a little disjointed. However like all things middle school, we go with the flow!
To give you a look, here's what a student project looks like from the teacher view. This is a kiddo from my 1st period.
His research question was: How did Satchel Paige impact the 1920s and 1930s?
After researching (he had six sources and 31 note cards), his thesis statement was: Through the 1920s and 1930s, Satchel Paige fascinated and entertained both the black and white public because he had absurd tricks on and off of the mound, he often jumped negro league teams across the country, and was the first negro baseball player to be inducted to the Hall Of Fame.
What's really hard to see is the blue hyperlink to the 30-day log of work done on this project. Mmm hmm! Minute by minute. Of course we generally don't look these over, but if a parent ever wonders how their student is using his or her time in class, it's right there.
Here's the view of the rest of the project dashboard:
And a look at what you see if you click on Works Cited:
They don't have the boxes from their view; that's where I can comment on their sources. To the right of the citation is a listing of how many note cards came from said source. You can click and see all of them right in order!
Here's a view of the note card table top and outline:
This is where Noodle is eons ahead of my templates in Collab from last year. As kids make note cards, they can pile them by sub-topic. Once they are done with their initial research, they can make the outline (to the right of the screen) and drag each note card right into the outline so they are in order! Pretty awesome :)
And a shot of a digital note card:
Yes, you see that correctly. Once you enter a source citation, it shows up in a drop-down box right on the note card & if you try to save without linking, a pop-up box shows up.
So now that January has passed, my main reflections:
1) Noodle Tools and Biography in Context are ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!!!
2) Next year instead of just telling kids to focus on three main areas of impact/significance, we are going to integrate Habits of Mind and have kids focus on three habits of mind their person (from the 1920s and 30s) exhibits.
3) With the unexpected days out, we really took a leap of faith between the note cards and papers. I'll start grading soon. Here's to hoping they remember *everything* about paragraphing from 5th & 6th or they were really good at following my hand outs!
4) Needed: mini-lessons on paraphrasing and note taking using screen shots from this year of a variety of note cards so they can really take a look and discover what strong paraphrasing and note taking looks like.
As far as Erin (Miss Lifesaver) asking what we think about citation makers, I am totally for them. As a matter of fact, I was looking for an old email today and came across one from a (now retired) colleague from Dec. 8, 2003, (my birthday!) with a link to the first iteration of Citation Maker!!
For this project, because the students cited all of their sources in the Bibliography section of Noodle Tools, we didn't even have them copy and paste a Works Cited to the end of their paper (which was created in Collab.) What would we have been assessing? Their ability to copy and paste.
So for now, research is wrapped up until next January. I do have 160 (or so...some are still quietly working at home!) research essays and outlines patiently waiting for me online. In another post, I'll talk about how our rubric changed, too.
Now we are on to a literature unit, one of my favorites with Witness by Karen Hesse. It was our first try at implementing an inquiry unit of study last year, so much of it was set, but we updated some of the work, and over half of my students are using Noodle note cards as "record and respond" cards for their response to literature. I'll tackle that next time, too.
This is the first time this school year when I've been able to catch my breath. I'm not working on new curriculum. I'm not getting ready to present to peers. I do have a load of grading, and parent conferences are next week, but pffft. Old hat :) I look forward to those things. What I'm saying is I anticipate more time to reflect on my teaching (learning!) here...and more than once a month!