Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Social Studies Project Recap: Finished On Schedule, Over and Out!

Lars's and Anders' Projects On Display in the Dining Room
Lars and Anders both finished their projects a few days ahead of schedule, and both boys did a great job! 

If you missed the earlier posts about the 2012 Summer Social Studies Research Projects that have been going on at our house for the past five weeks, you can catch up here. 

In the last lesson plan I posted, I talked about research note cards being like LEGO blocks, and each note card should only get one "brick" of information unless it was a set of related information that only made sense together, like a LEGO figurine that consists of a head, body, arms and legs.  Why do I care how much information they put on the note cards? 

Fast forward to two little boys getting ready to write their research papers. 


The hardest part of writing for many students is that intimidating blank screen or blank sheet of paper.  If you do your notecards the way I suggested, the paper practically writes itself. 

1.      First, sort the notecards into pile by subtopic, then put each pile into a logical, sequential order of supporting details.  Subtopics?  Supporting details?  Do you see where this is going? 

2.     Once your notecards are organized, use them to type up an outline for the research paper.  Why type the outline instead of writing it out by hand?  Because, if you save the outline file under a new name, you can use it as a roadmap for writing the paper, without ever having to face a blank screen or blank sheet of paper. 

3.     How does this work?  With your outline file open, move your curser to the top of the page, right under the title, and start writing the introductory paragraph at the top, right before the outline, and then delete the I. INTRODUCTION portion of the outline. 

4.     What's next?  It's right there on the screen -- II. SUBTOPIC WHATEVER IT IS and IIa. Supporting Detail One, IIb. Next Supporting Detail, etc.  Another thing I like about this method is that you can skip the introduction if you want, write the main body paragraphs, and then go back to write the introduction and conclusion once you’ve finished with everything else.

5.     There you go – your first draft is finished!  Put it away, and look at it again tomorrow with fresh eyes to see if you can tighten up your writing and correct any typos.  Then give your paper to someone else for proofreading and suggestions.  Once you’ve incorporated the revisions, you’ve got a final draft of your paper that you’ll be proud to turn in!

This method worked especially well for Anders, who usually requires a great deal of supervision, cajoling, encouragement and chocolate bribery in order to produce any written work.  Using the computer, replacing his outline with text as he worked down the page and incorporating notecards that he had already organized ahead of time, Anders produced some of his best written efforts to date with MUCH less assistance than usual. 

Anders' Project on the Republic of Ireland
Lars's Project on Japan
In addition to the main research papers, they also selected and completed several additional assignments from a list of choices in the original assignment packet.  Anders wrote essays about Irish folklore, strengths and weaknesses of his country, and designed a new flag for Ireland.  Lars researched and wrote about a famous Japanese historical figure, designed bumper stickers advertising his country, and created a board game that teaches players about Japan.  They each created a trifold display board to present what they learned, and Grammy and Grampa will be coming over on Saturday for their presentations and a celebration/sendoff dinner.  Meanwhile, tomorrow after camp finishes up, I'll be driving little boys to the LEGO store to pick out a little End of Project Prize. 

1 comment:

Elaine said...

This was interesting to read about, both from my point of view as a 'superannuated mom,' as a retired teacher, and as a published writer.

Here's a suggestion for future use: I often write a question that I am trying to answer and put it up where I can see it. It keeps me from going off on tangents. (The 'pose a question' also works for subtopics.) I found this often helped the kids who had trouble getting off the ground.