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    By KimW

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    I would love to teach writing. In every class I've ever had, I've always assigned a research report. You need to be sure that the students are working with a specific topic. To do this, draw an upside-down pyramid with four equal divisions. The top division should be a very broad topic like animals. In the second division the student should decide what type of animals they want to research - we'll say reptile. In the third division, the student decides what type of reptile, let's say rattlesnake. In the point of the pyramid, we put the most specific, narrowed topic. This may have to be filled in after the student looks at the different rattlesnakes. They can then decide which rattlesnake to do their research on, say Diamondback Rattlesnake. This makes the researching more challenging because they can't stop looking when they see "rattlesnake"; they have to read the article to see if it says anything about Diamondback Rattlesnakes. It is really fun and students learn how to really research and they learn that there are different kinds of panthers and wolves and eagles. I did this with a 6th grade and it really is amazing to see some of the animals they can find when made to really search. Many students think that a research paper is opening an encyclopedia and copying the words. But with this assignment they had to search for their very specific animal. They had to look in three different sources, most used the encyclopedia, a book on their animal or species, and the Internet. When they found anything about their animal, they had to take notes. After taking notes from all three sources, they had to organize all like notes into categories that answered questions like size of animal, where does it live, how does it survive, etc. After they categorized thier notes, they made an outline. Introduction (one paragraph); body (three paragraphs - one describes animal in color, size and shape,where it lives; second paragraph told what the animal ate, how it killed its prey, etc; the third paragraph was reserved for anything interesting that the student wanted to put in);the last paragraph was a conclusion. Students then wrote paragraphs to answer these questions. Next we exchanged paragraphs with a partner who proofread it. Then we wrote each of the 5 paragraphs on an index card(one paragraph for each card - color coded). I then checked the cards. We then wrote a rough draft from the cards. Partners checked this as did I. Finally students handed in a typed final draft with a picture from their animal. The student enjoyed it and they actually asked if they could do another! E-mail me if you have any questions.

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