A book recommended to me by some members of our literacy curriculum team found its way back into my hands the other day. I had skimmed through it earlier this year in the middle of a research unit (great time to be learning, right?) and could tell that it was something I wanted to go back and revisit when I had time to process on it and really think. “Energize Research Reading and Writing” by Christopher Lehman is a game-changing text . . . it’s only about 140 pages (always a bonus!) but it is a paradigm shifting text that is WELL worth your time if you teach intermediate or middle level students.
If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you know I am a huge believer in having students “construct” their own meaning. You know as well as I do that we can “teach” students 24/7, but if we fail to address the “learning”, we are wasting our breath.
I think this is the reason I always dread “The Research Project” in 4th grade. I feel I work VERY hard during the process, and I’m just not sure what kind of learning really occurs. The students are players in the process instead of moderating their own game. Students are more concerned about doing what the teacher has established as “The Process” that I truly question what learning takes place. “The Research Project” has taken on different forms through my years of teaching, but it always involves a few key elements:
- Teacher selects a topic (or “category”–like biographies)
- Students work step by step to go through “The Research Project”–usually involving notes, drafts, revisions, and publishing.
- Students who struggle get the most teacher time and the process is completed hand over hand to make sure the steps are followed.
- The teacher works very hard trying to keep everyone “caught up”.
- Students follow the steps obediently (relatively!) so they end up with a finished product.