Last week I was able to spend a few days in my friend Lauren's 4th grade classroom. She started using EW not long after I began, and every lesson she does is amazing!
Over the next couple of weeks, her students are going to be conducting research in their social studies class over an animal in Texas. Then, the students will be writing an informational process piece over the animal that they chose to research during her class period.
In order to ensure that her kids were able to find information in the paragraphs they read during research, take notes, and then rewrite the facts into new paragraphs to avoid plagiarism, she referred to a few of my favorite Empowering Writers lessons under Research in the Grade Level Informational/ Opinion Writing Guides. The 4th graders used lessons 6-8 that focus directly on the steps needed in order to complete those daunting tasks that we require students to do during research.
How many times do you come across students who copy and paste entire paragraphs of information into their notes to only then copy it almost word for word into their own piece? Why? I'm not an expert, but I have seen students who have not been given strategies for taking notes and it seems that those students are so overwhelmed in the gathering of facts that they just copy and paste. Rather, if we teach students strategies and scaffold the lessons by using only one sentence or paragraph at a time, they tend to not get overwhelmed and can use the note taking skills that we have given them to successfully take the notes and then turn those notes into their own words.
On the first day, Lauren modeled taking notes from simple sentences. Then, she handed out the student page and together as a class they went through and took notes on the sentences from the PDF.
Next, she modeled how to look at notes and turn them into full, complete sentences.
As a quick check for understanding, she had them choose one of the sentences that they took notes on and had them write a complete sentence on the back of their paper.
On the next day, students transitioned from taking notes from single sentences to taking notes from paragraphs . They further practiced turning those notes into new paragraphs that were unique to the notes each student took. Here are a couple of student samples to look at.All of these lessons are available for you in your Grade Level Informational/Opinion Guides under the Research section.