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    Joined: Dec 2005
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    Grinity Offline OP
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    Dear Ones -
    I have a question about teaching children to do research papers that I would love to hear about from the perspective of trying to teach HG/PG kids. The reason is that I'm watching the school trying to teach DS10 how do use books to find answers to academic questions. I standing on the sidelines trying to be helpful, but I have my doubts.

    The Middle School has all the teachers using the same terminology, following the recommendations of Big6 http://www.big6.com/ This is a help.

    From the website:
    What is the Big6?
    Developed by educators Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, the Big6 is the most widely-known and widely-used approach to teaching information and technology skills in the world. The Big6 is an information and technology literacy model and curriculum, implemented in thousands of schools - K through higher education. Some people call the Big6 an information problem-solving strategy because with the Big6, students are able to handle any problem, assignment, decision or task.

    What I don't get is how a 10 year old is supposed to think of a question, and then find the answer to their question in a book. The great thing about our kids is that they ask such off-beat questions, either questions that don't show up in the children's non-fiction or that don't have answers yet. Even with the Internet, I find it difficult to track down information at times. I see DS10 getting so frustrated and I worry that he will learn is to ask easier questions. Example - DS10 came up with the question "What was the religious significance of the Nile to Ancient Egyptians?" You can bet that he couldn't find the answer in his source books and that it was the "11th hour."

    So, to any of you who get the leisure to answer me, I know that people are busy now, but later is fine, too:

    At what age did you start asking your child to create research papers with sources and citations? What signs were you looking for to see if they were ready? How did you know what level of quality to expect?

    At what age did you start asking your child to create research papers where they weren't so interested in the topic?

    Do you see research paper writing as exercises in summarizing and integrating the source material or as an exercise in pursuing a question using source material? Do you do some of both? If so, are the endpoints different for both types of exercise?

    If any of you waited until the child was 10 or older to introduce this type of learning, what was the transition like? How many steps were needed to get the child comfortable with the process, and what were the stages like?

    How much pushing had to be done? How did you know if you were pushing too hard? How did you distinguish the natural "I learned all I want to know about this topic" from the habit of being lazy?

    Thanks for answering all my questions - I doubt that I could find a book that would be able to give me this information, but I'd love any book recommendations - aimed at the child or the "teacher."

    Love and More Love,
    Trinity


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    Hi Trinity,

    I will try to answer some of your questions.

    I remember that my daughter Yiren started writing long research paper when she was in 5th grade (10 years old). She was in a self-contain GATE class. The highlight of the curriculum is four Historical Pursuit Projects in which they need to select a topic in the time-period, write a one page short summary, one long essay (5 page single space), make a 3-D model and do an oral presentation.

    Like your son, Yiren loved some strange topics. For example, her first HPP topic was "Suleyman the Magnificent and Ottoman Architecture". You can read it with this URL

    http://www.employees.org/~clu/Yiren/Suleyman.html

    We just borrowed some books and did some Internet research. Somehow she was able to put all the material in her own words and construct a pretty decent paper. Teacher did not teach them about how to do research paper but he did provide a list of possible topics. Of course, most of which are not as off-beat as the "Suleyman" or "Religious significance of the Nile". Although most students were able to meet teacher length standard, the quality of writing varies wildly.

    I think that Yiren started to cite sources in 6th grade (not for class but for some competitions). It requires a little bit training. But just give them an example; they will be able to follow the rules.

    Kids will be happier if they are writing something that they are interested in. If they are truly not interested in a certain topic, there is little point to force them into doing it. However, when they get older, they will realize that the curriculum was not designed around their interests. Sometimes they just have to work on it.

    In my opinion, "summarizing and integrating the source material" is the first step of a research paper. "Pursuing a question using source material" is one level above. It requires using material selectively to support his own position.

    My daughters were very lucky being challenged like this when they were in 4th and 5th grade. They learned a great deal from these projects. These types of research papers were not required in most middle schools until probably 8th grade. If the teacher requires kids to write research paper when they are 10, count yourself lucky. Do push your kids hard to write more than required, to go more in-depth, etc. Some kids know that they will get A if they write one page plus 2 lines so they stop at one page and 3 lines. Don't let him do that.

    I hope this helps a bit.


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    Grinity Offline OP
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    Thanks so much Chechuan!

    I do count myself lucky that the school looks for this from their early middle schoolers.

    I love the reasurance that "summarizing and integrating the source material" is a preliminary step to "Pursuing a question using source material."

    Recently, due to logistics and lack of time, and vacation plans, DH and I decided to "just this time" find the sources, and spoon feed them to DS10, so he can consentrate on extracting the info and then integrating it into a paper. I hope that I am not going down the path of overinvolvement, but flexibly reacting to the situation, good but not perfect, that we are in. Luckily this current science project will be just one of many in which he gets to "try, try again" at this skill of what I'm starting to call, finding an answer in a bookstack.

    I also am more clear that I understand the reason behind forbiding the use of Internet search engines for the Middle Schoolers, but that I think this is one of those areas where DS should be judged as the unique individual he is, and not by the usual age-based guidelines.

    Thanks for the link to your daughter's project. I skimmed it and sure loved the lovely juxtaposition of above level interests and sophistication with the "real kid" touches.

    Wish me luck!
    Trinity


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    I am glad that some schools are doing something about Internet searching. Not sure how to enforce that though. Now you can Google just about any topic and kids know that. The problem is that kids tend to cut and paste rather than rewrite the material in their own voice. It is so easy for them to do and so hard for teacher to find out. In high school, sometimes teachers send the student writings to private company to do plagiarism check. The students will fail the class if they get caught.

    Parents should involve with kid's project. Just try not to overdo it. I have seen some 3-D models which clearly can not be done without parents' help. The parent involvement usually decrease as they get older and more capable doing research on their own. I think that it is okay for parents to play the role of "research assistant" who pre-reading books, searching Internet, making photocopies, highlighting the relevent information, etc. You can certainly give suggestions and make minor corrections for them. But it is kids' job to write the paper.



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    Grinity Offline OP
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    I will try not to overdo the involvement. So far I have emailed him two sources and he's emailed me two notecards. I found a video how to make plant cuttings on the web so that was today's assignment. I have two books from the library because by the time he gets home the library will be closed, one for kids and one Botany for Gardeners. I'm just glad to see that he's doing "something." It so easy to give up when the job looks too big.

    The school complains that the children can't think critically about the source of the Internet information. I think that this is a little odd, because most of the information on serious topics is quite serious. Can you picture a blog on Ancient Egypt by a naughty high schooler? Doesn't seem too likely. Besides my son has already learned that you can't take everything you read on the Internet at face value - he's been surfing for game cheat codes for years - and he's had some bad experiences with that! LOL!
    Trin


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