Prior to the Summer Institute in 2011, the focus of written instruction in my classroom was on thesis writing. We developed a continuum of writing for freshmen students in Social Studies that began with summary writing, progressed to the development of a thesis, shifted to a thesis-based paragraph, and culminated in a document-based question essay. While I felt confident in my students' thesis writing by the end of the course, I wondered if the format was a bit stifling for some of my students. During the Summer Institute, I was thrilled to learn new strategies for writing. My teaching goal by the end of the summer was to teach students how to write mini-memoirs.
Teaching Segment-Thesis Based Writing in the Social Studies
At the beginning of the school year, I set aside writing days within the World History I pacing guide to work on the mini-memoir project throughout the semester. I immediately ran into trouble with time. My students enjoyed these days, but wanted to spend more time writing. Additionally, they struggled connecting the writing we were doing during the mini-memoir days to the World History I curriculum. The first semester ended and the students had not really completed a mini-memoir. With the start of second semester, I reworked my timeline and decided (with the help of my coach) to have students complete two mini-memoirs. In one memoir, students would write from the perspective of a person from history. In the other memoir, students would write from their own perspective. While this seemed like it would mesh well with the curriculum, I ran into the same problems as before-time and connections. My coach and I discussed options for my writing goal. She suggested I look into the Multigenre Research Project. I completed some research and read Melinda Putz's A Teacher's Guide to the Multigenre Research Project: Everything You Need to Get Started.
This book was tremendously helpful and seemed like the perfect fit. The Multigenre Research Project still emphasizes the skills of research, but is student-driven and focuses on authentic writing. I decided to begin this project in May.
I was worried about beginning this project in May due to the lack of time and usual end of year student craziness. Though I was concerned, my students blew me away. Rather than the usual complaints you get with an end of year project, my students were excited about this project! Their enthusiasm continued all the way to the last day of school when they presented their projects. The project topics varied from September 11th to Anne Frank to historical bootleggers. Grading these projects was also much more fun than grading traditional essays. Next school year, I plan to start the project earlier in the school year and perhaps even have a community sharing night. I am also going to share this project with my Social Studies and ninh grade professional learning community.
Top Three Resources
- I would not have known where to start without Melinda Putz's A Teacher's Guide to the Multigenre Research Project: Everything You Need to Get Started. It explains the process of the project and includes practical handouts that are literally ready to use.
- Another great resource for younger grades is The Multigenre Research Paper: Voice, Passion, and Discovery in Grades 4-6 by Camille A. Allen.
- Additionally, here is a link to a book review of Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers, another great resource for multigenre writing. http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/778