As part of their social studies curriculum and library/technology skills classes, 5th grade students are beginning their research for the production of our online magazines. This activity is used to depict their understanding of various Revolutionary War topics. Before we can create our magazine pages we needed to learn specific information on our topics and the process of questioning is where we begin. One of our PD (professional development) topics was all about the thinking strategy “Questioning”, what perfect timing for me to decide how to restructure these lessons. You will see below that I began by using two different questioning graphic organizers to help students to develop their writing.
We started by asking questions to develop our background (schema) needed for this research process. Asking questions was the obvious way to get the information they needed. Student’s made a list of the first 4 W’s (Who, What, When & Where questions). Using the Question Builder Chart below. This graphic organizer allowed them to scratch the surface on the information available about their topics.
Next we used the What I wonder…What I learned…graphic organizer as our on-line tool for recording our answers to the research questions. The change here was that they were to ask the first 4 W’s and then ask the “How” and “Why” questions that come to the surface because of the first set of questions they were researching.
graphic organizer…(2 column note taking form)
The first draft of research writing:
Students began to understand that these questions (4-W’s) and answers would help them to organize the written part of the magazine pages. These background questions should have empowered them to ask more probing questions, probing deep enough to challenge their assumptions and get at the real answers, not just superficial ones. It was now that I wondered if some of us should try using the graphic organizer, “Peeling the Fruit” that was presented in our PD. I was thinking that by asking deeper and deeper questions that build on the answers students would be more likely to discover what really matters for their topics. I thought it would also challenge students to think a little more than usual. I was wrong they only asked the same questions that they used in their 2 column notes. I was disappointed because I had hoped it this graphic organizer might help them probe a little deeper. Next time I will not give them the 2 column note taking form and see if they attack the “Peeling the Fruit” strategy with a little more vigor.