My grade 8s spent the past week in small groups doing some informal background research for Tuck Everlasting.  (See the corresponding unit plan on this blog, based on Jeffrey Wilhem’s book, Engaging Readers and Writers with Inquiry.)

The class was divided into random groups. Each group brainstormed topics they were curious about regarding the 1800s.

My plan was to jigsaw the topics so that each group would research and talk about something different.

After brainstorming, I asked each group to number their top 3 topics. Conveniently, every group had a different top three, so they all got what they wanted.

I gave them more time to come up with additional questions about their topics, so that everyone would have some things to look for.

At the next class, we used the netbooks and spent the period informally looking for interesting details and pictures to share the following day.

My ulterior motive for this activity was to have students working together with new people; more the ‘social piece’ rather than pure research. And to also foster some curiosity about the novel’s setting.

When the groups presented, I took notes on their oral presentation skills, and made a note of students who didn’t contribute. (They were the ones who didn’t have a lot of experience with internet search terms, although they knew to use the district’s Webcat to access World Book databases.)

Assessment: I used exit slips to ask students to share one interesting item they learned from each other’s presentations.

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