At the beginning of the school year, my 5th graders were asked to do a research paper- a task the students and I both dread for different reasons. To put it simply, they didn’t like doing it because it was a lot of work. I, on the other hand, worried about them using online sources and plagiarizing from them. To solve our problems, I created a graphic organizer on Google Docs that saved us all a lot of time, stress, and even managed to make the whole learning process much easier.
Starting off, the graphic organizer doesn’t look that impressive, but as I tell my students the boxes will expand based on how much information they input in there. Also, I did notice that they didn’t feel overwhelmed starting this project because the graphic organizer just looks like a small worksheet that they needed to fill out. Them feeling that way is already a good starting point to this whole research process.
Step-By-Step to Using the Graphic Organizer
Anytime I am doing a research paper, I find myself having the most trouble doing the introduction paragraph since it is the paragraph that grabs the readers’ attention. With that at stake, I told my students to save that paragraph for later and to work on their three supporting paragraphs, which according to the graphic organizer, are the reason 1, 2, and 3 draft boxes. Once they understand the task, they come up with three reasons to build their supporting paragraphs. For example, one of their tasks required them to write an opinion piece on who they believe is an important figure. That important figure should get the honor of having a monument made of himself or herself. With that understanding of the task and after deciding who they will research about, the students then come up with their first reason.
Let’s examine Justine’s research process to better understand what I am talking about. Justine’s first reason about why Dr. Seuss deserves a monument was because he was a good writer. She simply writes “good writer” in the same line that says “Reason 1 draft”. After that, she researches online about what makes Dr. Seuss a good writer and would then copy and paste that information into the “Notes” box as well as copying the website’s address into her “Source” box. Next, she reads and underlines the part that provides the evidence showing how he’s a good writer. After the underlining, she makes three brief bulleted notes using short phrases all in the “Notes” box.
The next step is developing her first supporting paragraph which becomes a challenge because she has to paraphrase her research to avoid plagiarism. From a teacher’s perspective, this organizer helps me to better understand her progress because I can see right away how her sentences are constructed as compared to the original source. It saves me time from having to research where she got her information and whether she copied the source. She then goes through the same process for developing the other supporting paragraphs and after all the research, she has a clearer vision of how she will develop both the introduction and conclusion paragraph. Once the whole organizer gets filled and approved by me, she cuts and pastes her paragraphs and formats them to look like an essay or in this case, a letter.
Doing a research essay can be a very daunting experience for many students but using this graphic organizer has been a much easier process for all of us. It was definitely less of a headache to track them through the whole process, and I liked that it made learning more engaging and smoother for them.