For those that like my poetry, forgive me. I feel the need to write a little about a new approach to research that I’m trying in my class this year. For those that are sick of my poetry or curious, read on.
Ever since I’ve become an English teacher, research has been a trial. It’s something students don’t do enough at school to be comfortable with the process. They also see the process as meaningless, because if they really wanted to know something, they’d look it up on Wikipedia or just google it. The fact that I make them look things up in peer reviewed journals and edited magazines or newspapers drives them crazy. When I ask them how they search, inevitably someone will say they just type the question in Google.
To get them used to the process, since the beginning we’ve looked for things they don’t know that they could research. When reading about zombies, they looked up what the ASPCA recommends for pets when disasters strike. When reading Persepolis, they looked up who the Shah of Iran was, as well as details about the Iran/Iraq conflict of the 1970s. Even with this mini inquiry, they still want to go Google for their answers.
I’ve been trying to show them that using experts to back their opinions adds weight to what they believe. If they want to prove something, if they can not only use a statistic but also back it up with who said that stat and where it came from, they will be more believable to the people with which they discuss. Twice now, we’ve tried Socratic Seminars to discuss a topic. A Socratic Seminar is when the students run the discussion with each other, and the teacher steps back and observes what happens. Students have to be polite with each other, take turns and invite those who do not participate, and use evidence and logic to prove their point.
Now they’re researching a topic to discuss with each other before they write. We’ll follow the same procedure as a traditional research project, but students will be in research teams, studying an issue that has at least two sides (for example: should marching band be considered a sport, thereby allowing students to get physical education credit, as the rest of the sport do). Before writing, they’ll discuss the topic with each other.
My hope is that if they think about how to discuss this topic before they write, they’ll be more likely to think about the arguments they’ll use. Then when we go to write, it’ll be easier, presumably, to think about topics that support their claim and evidence to help prove it. Because I have some introverts, I’m going to allow them to use a backchannel chat function to discuss the topics, if they want, instead of an out loud discussion.
So what do you all think? Would you hate to discuss a topic before writing about it? Will this help my students to see the value in research?