Positives in the Pandemic Part Two: Managing “Research” via Distance Learning

Argumentative research is a skill our freshman English team has always built up to and focused on at the end of the school year. We had planned to start this process in April and were thrown a curveball when COVID-19 arrived and shut everything down. Instead of throwing out all the work we have done, we regrouped and revised our approach to “research” at home. Here are the steps we took to make “research” manageable for our students.

Step One: Change the topic

We had originally planned to have the students research teen issues and argue which one has had the greatest impact on teen’s lives today, but with all the struggles our students are facing we didn’t want them to research that at home without the mental health supports that our counselors and social workers provide when needed. So we changed it around and had them research something more “positive.”

Our new topic: Positives in the Pandemic

Step Two: Narrow Their Topic Choices

Instead of giving students free rein, we gathered resources around four topics that continually popped up in the news and on social media and created DBQ style documents to help them manage the research they were expected to do on their own. While this scaffolding decreased the actual “research” our students had to do, we did challenge students to find a source on their own using the LibGuide created by our school librarian.

Step Three: Chunk and Keep the Process Manageable

After seeing our students struggle to manage big projects in other classes, we decided we needed to break down the process into even smaller manageable chunks that would hopefully be easier for students to follow: chunks by date and process step, video directions, models, and a lot of Google Meet options for students to get extra help.

It worked! The students spent the past three weeks synthesizing the documents and organizing all their ideas into their essays. This was the best work they have submitted all year and all done from home.

As I reflect on this final writing process piece, there is a lot I learned and will apply to the classroom next year. Whether we are in school or teaching remotely, making work more manageable, and providing additional sets of video directions (to review when they are away from the classroom) will be the new norm. As you think about these last few months of school, what ways did you make research or big projects more manageable? What will you continue to add to your teaching strategies next year?

Melissa Sethna lives and teaches with her husband in Mundelein, ILOn a regular school day, she is so busy coaching teachers and planning professional development (along with co-teaching her English class). Under this mandatory school closure time, when she isn’t helping her colleagues, she is catching up on her to-read list, binge-watching Veronica Mars, Northern Rescue, & Never Have I Ever, and making time to workout at a normal hour. You can follow her on Goodreads and Twitter @msethna23.

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2 thoughts on “Positives in the Pandemic Part Two: Managing “Research” via Distance Learning

  1. msethnalovesbooks May 13, 2020 at 3:54 pm Reply

    Unfortunately, I don’t have materials for the teen issues essay. We were starting to plan it and COVID hit before we could pull things together. Let me know if you want to see the formating for the Positives in the Pandemic one, and you could tweak that with teen issues resources instead.

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  2. Erica Chiarkas May 13, 2020 at 10:01 am Reply

    I love this idea for a research project NEXT school year when we are back to face-to-face instruction. Do you have materials you would be willing to share? (RE: “research teen issues and argue which one has had the greatest impact on teen’s lives today”)

    Like

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