by Tricia Ebarvia
For years, whenever my students and I read a novel, I would pass out a study guide with a list of questions for each chapter. By giving students the study guide questions―questions I wrote―I could make sure that students wouldn’t miss anything in their reading. Too often, students would read too quickly and miss details. Requiring students to answer study guide questions was my way of getting them to slow down to notice what they were reading. To get them to see the dots that they could later connect together.
After we finished the novel, the next step would be a writing assignment. On that day, I would pass out a list of essay questions. I often included questions of varying difficulty in order to better differentiate instruction, and students could happily chose whichever essay question was most accessible (or least terrifying). In case none of the questions interested students, I always gave them the option of creating their own essay question (just so long as they reviewed it with me first).
Of course, rarely did students ever take me up on that option. After all, by creating essay questions for them, I had already sent the message that it was the teacher’s questions that mattered, not theirs. And while some students were more than happy to answer my questions―in fact, I think some of them preferred to―what I’ve come to realize that what I needed to focus on was getting students to answer their own questions about the text. Read more
By Lynne R. Dorfman
I have always known that research begins with a burning question – one that needs to be answered to satisfy that “Curious George” persona in all of us. As my students have engaged in content area learning in the past, I now realize that I was perhaps too quick to send them off on a journey (not always a journey of student choice either). We all know how important the three Cs are to student learning – choice, challenge, and collaboration. But what if your students don’t have a burning question to ignite their quest? Read more
By Janice Ewing
“Transforming wonderings into questions is the start of teacher research” (Hubbard & Power, 2003).
This month on our blog we’ve been exploring the challenges and rewards of research and inquiry. Tricia Ebarvia shared the thoughtful process she has developed with her students in “Updating the Research Paper” and Rita Sorrentino examined the timely issue of “Why Johnny Can’t Search.” These and numerous other posts have inspired me to reflect on the value of teacher research and inquiry and on PAWLP’s role in creating a culture that invites us into these practices and sustains their growth. Read more
By Tricia Ebarvia
Last week I explained how I help students discover an inquiry question through independent research. Below, read on to lean more about our drafting process and the final products.
At the core of the inquiry paper is Kenneth Burke’s contention that writing is like “entering a conversation.” No doubt others have written about music and feminism, for example, but I encourage students to think of their final paper as their way of adding their voice to the ongoing conversation about their topic. Read more
By Tricia Ebarvia
I vividly remember the pile of 3 ½ x 5 index cards I used to collect information for the dreaded junior year research paper. I also remember my teacher, Mrs. Caum, telling us exactly how our paper needed to look, from the in-text citations to the footnotes.
While the type of academic writing I did that year was valuable—I did, after all, become an English major—I’m not sure how authentic that experience was, then and especially today. The fact is that nothing screams “school” more than a traditional research paper, double-spaced in 12-pt Times New Roman font with an MLA heading and works cited page. No doubt that students should know how to do that type of academic writing. But now that I find myself as the teacher who assigns that dreaded research paper, I’ve thought about ways to make the experience more meaningful for my students. Read more