Clearing out: 5th grade U.S. history, part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Maybe this will be the last part of this blog series.  The next 30 minutes are crucial.

If you downloaded and looked at my old Enriched Thinking Curriculum [ETC] lesson plan template, you will have noticed that THE LESSON itself starts with an Engagement bit and ends with Assessment/Reflection.  In between is the actual meat of the lesson, which for my purposes was always an information skills task.  Remember that we were at the time (late 90s) transitioning from the Georgia Quality Core Curriculum [QCC], which demanded we teach all the stuff, into the Georgia Performance Standards [GPS], in which the leaders of our state claimed they wanted us to teach actual performance skills, i.e., the kids should be able to do something with knowledge.  Critical thinking skills.  You may have heard of them.

Anyway, the framework I used is called The Big 6.  Check it out here.  It is a very simple, very powerful way to structure your students’ approach to information problems, aka “research.”

Here’s the bare bones version:

  1.  Task Definition
    1. Define the problem.
    2. Identify the information needed.
  2. Information Seeking Strategy
    1. Brainstorm all possible sources.
    2. Select the best source(s).
  3. Location and Access
    1. Locate sources.
    2. Find information within sources.
  4. Use of Information
    1. Engage (read, hear, view).
    2. Extract relevant information.
  5. Synthesis
    1. Organize information from multiple resources.
    2. Present the result.
  6. Evaluation
    1. Judge the result (effectiveness).
    2. Judge the process (efficiency).

Before I go any further, it’s important to recognize that the very first step, Task Definition, reaches all the way up to 5.2 Present the result: as I would teach the kids, the “information” you need is going to be very different depending on whether you’re writing a paragraph or making a poster.

Since I was implementing this at the elementary level, I found the verbiage to be a little problematic.  “Information Seeking Strategy”?  What’s that?[1]

Here’s my elementary rewording:

  1. What’s the job?
    1. What are we trying to do?
    2. What do we need to know?
  2. Where will we find the information?
    1. Where could we look?
    2. What’s the best place to start looking?
  3. Find it.
    1. Find the sources of information: books, encyclopedias, Internet, cd-roms, etc.
    2. Look up the information in the sources: use the index, etc.
  4. Deal with it.
    1. Read through all the information.
    2. Get just the information we need: take notes!
  5. Show it!
    1. Put all the information we found together.
    2. Present the result.
  6. How did we do?
    1. Did we do a good job?
    2. Were we good at finding information?

And here I am embarrassed to say that I can’t find the file on my computer with the actual lesson.  Has it vanished?  Was it on another computer? (Not likely.) All I have is the paper in front of me. It might not have mattered: many of the files from that period are unreadable by any software now.  Sic transit

I will paraphrase:

The Engagement portion presented the two essential questions, “Which American war was the most ‘preventable’?” and “How would we be different if we had prevented that war?”

  1. Task Definition
    1. Define the problem.
      1. Ask what is the very first thing we will need to know in order to answer the EQs.
    2. Identify the information needed.
      1. A list of wars the U.S. has fought in 1852-1990
  2. Information Seeking Strategy
    1. Brainstorm all possible sources.
      1. Write them all on the board.  Categorize if necessary.
      2. If anyone says “computer” as a source, show them the filmstrip projector [!—it was 1998, after all] and ask if they can “look up” information from the filmstrip projector.  tl;dr: it’s just a machine; so is the computer.
    2. Select the best source(s).
      1. Up to them: if it’s the textbook, it’s the textbook.  Guide the less efficient.
  3. Location and Access
    1. Locate sources.
      1. Divide into teams to work out lists.
    2. Find information within sources.
      1. teachable moment: table of contents, appendices, etc?
  4. Use of Information
    1. Engage (read, hear, view).
      1. Be seeking relevancy
    2. Extract relevant information.
      1. Have teams write down their lists on scratch paper.
      2. Mid-time, ask everyone to check their performance rubrics (Is aware of and uses necessary resources).  How are they doing?
      3. When time is up, do a round-robin call-out of wars. List them on the board.  If any are missing, challenge the teams to find the missing ones.  “There’s one missing between 1890 and 1900…”
  5. Synthesis
    1. Organize information from multiple resources.
      1. Have the whole class participate in putting them in chronological order while you write them on the board.
    2. Present the result.
      1. Pass out the timeline handout. Have students copy the list correctly onto the handout for reference during the entire unit.
  6. Evaluation
    1. Judge the result (effectiveness).
      1. xxx [for some reason]
    2. Judge the process (efficiency).
      1. Which resources were best?  Why?  Will they always be “the best”? What was the hardest part?

Finally, for Assessment/Reflection: Ask students to look over their list.  PREDICT.  Begin thinking about the kinds of things they’ll be exploring in order to answer the EQ.  Have them write down in list format on a separate sheet of paper for their notebook.

Am I done here?  I think maybe I am.  Unless you ask questions in comments.

This has been a review of one set of folders I found while clearing out our storage unit.

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[1] In general, in my teaching career, I have found it to be a waste of time teaching specialized terminology if that terminology is not critical to the task at hand.  For example, I never bored my students with the Dewey Decimal System.[2]  Why does any human being need to know that the 630s are “Agriculture”?  All a kid needs to know is that the book on puppies she just looked up can be found in the row with the 600 sign hanging over it, and that 636.7 comes between 636.6 and 636.8.  (“Animal husbandry/domesticated animals,” why do you ask?)

[2] I bored them in many other ways.

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