From Theory to Practice
Students will use scaffolding to research and organize information for writing a research paper. A research paper scaffold provides students with clear support for writing expository papers that include a question (problem), literature review, analysis, methodology for original research, results, conclusion, and references. Students examine informational text, use an inquiry-based approach, and practice genre-specific strategies for expository writing. Depending on the goals of the assignment, students may work collaboratively or as individuals. A student-written paper about color psychology provides an authentic model of a scaffold and the corresponding finished paper. The research paper scaffold is designed to be completed during seven or eight sessions over the course of four to six weeks.
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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
O'Day, S. (2006) Setting the stage for creative writing: Plot scaffolds for beginning and intermediate writers. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
- Research paper scaffolding provides a temporary linguistic tool to assist students as they organize their expository writing. Scaffolding assists students in moving to levels of language performance they might be unable to obtain without this support.
- An instructional scaffold essentially changes the role of the teacher from that of giver of knowledge to leader in inquiry. This relationship encourages creative intelligence on the part of both teacher and student, which in turn may broaden the notion of literacy so as to include more learning styles.
- An instructional scaffold is useful for expository writing because of its basis in problem solving, ownership, appropriateness, support, collaboration, and internalization. It allows students to start where they are comfortable, and provides a genre-based structure for organizing creative ideas.
Biancarosa, G., and Snow, C. E. (2004.) Reading next-A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
- In order for students to take ownership of knowledge, they must learn to rework raw information, use details and facts, and write.
- Teaching writing should involve direct, explicit comprehension instruction, effective instructional principles embedded in content, motivation and self-directed learning, and text-based collaborative learning to improve middle school and high school literacy.
- Expository writing, because its organizational structure is rooted in classical rhetoric, needs to be taught.
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I once made a research paper due one week before the end of the grading period. I sat down to grade them. After the first one, I cried. After the second one I cut myself. After the third one I swore I’d rather eat razors and drink cow urine than read another one.
I got many strange looks while eating razors and drinking cow urine.
Luckily I came up with a research paper lesson plan that wouldn’t cause me to want to lick a curling iron while stepping on Lego pieces. I now share this lesson plan for writing a research paper with you. It also serves as a research skills lesson plan.
ELA Common Core Standards for Writing a Research Paper Lesson Plan
- RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- Common Core Writing Standard 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
- W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.)
- W.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
- W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
- W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
- L.9-10.3a Write and edit work so that it conforms to the guidelines in a style manual (e.g., MLA Handbook, Turabian’s Manual for Writers) appropriate for the discipline and writing type.
Keep it simple.
This particular research skills lesson plan’s purpose is to give students confidence. The teacher takes them through the steps. It may take a week or two. The materials I used for my research paper unit involves The Odyssey. I utilized the text book and web sources.
If you’d rather get struck in the forehead by a boulder thrown by a Cyclops than read another research paper, keep reading.
Step 1: Instruct students how to create a works cited page. Include examples on your works cited page. Numerous handouts exist online. Here’s one I use: Citation Expectations.
Step 2: Students will now take notes on a specific topic. This works best if it’s aligned thematically with a unit you’re about to begin. Before taking the first note, instruct students to write down the citation information in MLA format. For example, we were about to begin The Odyssey, so I found introductory material in our text book for them to read and take Cornell Notes on. By the end of day 1, they had one page of Cornell Notes, properly cited.
Step 3: At this point you’re simply repeating step 2. For this day I found another article in the text book about epic poems. At the end of day 2, students had 2 pages of Cornell Notes with citation information in MLA format.
It takes a hero to teach research to high-school students.
Step 4: We’re doing the same thing, except you’ll want to mix in a different type of citation. I used The Hero’s Journey video from TedEd. If you checkout my Hero’s Journey Resource Page, there’s a video and a few other things. By the end of day 3, students have three pages of notes and three sources properly cited in MLA format.
Step 5: One more time. For these notes, I find a source online and project it on a screen. For this exercise, I used a document on epic conventions from Carson-Newman University. In addition to learning about epic conventions, we learned that Carson-Newman University is in Tennessee. Now you know. Each student now has 4 pages of notes, all with the correct MLA citation.
*Obviously, you can modify the assignment to suit the ability and needs of your students. I prefer to keep it simple and focus on the technical aspects of research papers.*
Step 6: Put together the works cited page. Refer to the Citations Expectations or just Google it. I recommend the Purdue OWL website. I revert back to 1973 and make students hand write their works cited page in class as a rough draft. Despite teaching for 17 years, I’m still amazed at the number of times I can repeat something and still have 2/3 of students do the exact opposite.
Step 7: Teach students how to cite sources directly in their paper. Again, the Internet abounds with help, if you’re not sure or forgot. Most English teachers have written enough research papers that we know how. Even so, I still referenced the Purdue OWL site for certain things, mostly pertaining to online sources, since there was no such thing when I was in grad school.
Step 8: Instruct students to write the rough draft in class. Emphasize the importance of citing in the correct format.
Step 9: They’re on their own. You’ve gone through it step-by-step. Make the final draft due in a few days.
Here’s how I assess the mini-research paper.
- *MLA Works Cited Page: 40 pts. The works cited page must be absolutely perfect to get 40 points. Take off a point or two for typos and other minor errors. Errors in overall quality–excluding a source, not double spacing, wrong size font, no title, not indenting correctly are major errors and will be treated as major errors in the scoring.
- Direct Citation of Sources: 35 pts. I require a minimum of 3 directly cited sources. Either it’s done right or it isn’t. It must be perfect to get the full 35 points. All mistakes are penalized. Major mistakes–not including a page number, not including an author, not setting the citation up in context–are penalized accordingly.
- Spelling, Mechanics, Grammar, etc: 15 pts. The key here is not to look stupid. One of the challenges of a research paper is establishing credibility. Any mistake in this area requires a penalty.
- Content: 10 pts. This is the opposite of what I usually do. The major objective of this assignment is to teach technical research writing skills. Once the basic skills of research writing are complete, I can then focus on content.
*According to MLA, you should only include works in the works cited page that you actually cite. For this assignment, however, it’s a good idea to make them cite all the sources you go over in class.Share This: