Building Engagement in Research Projects

I am introducing a new research project to my 7th grade tomorrow, and I am trying a new strategy that I learned from Phillip Cummings’ blog about Visible Thinking. I want to combine the ideas of Visible Thinking, making the process of developing new ideas more apparent to my students, while sparking their imaginations about the project they are about to start. They have been studying the Roman Empire. I sent them a Google Form with 25 topics that they could choose from to begin their thinking. It had everything from slavery to gender to architecture to trade. Here is what they will be doing tomorrow, as they put some of the Visible Thinking strategies into practice.

The first section is called I know…..  

1. Start with “What do I already know about my topic?”

2. Make a Google Doc. Title it with the name of your topic and put it into your History Collection.

3. Review your handouts, looking for facts about your topic.

4. Record what you already know, using bullet points, in your Doc. (We have a 1:1 program in 7th grade, so they share all of their work with me through a Shared Collection. It is an easy way for me to see and comment on their work.)

Here are the directions for the next step: I wonder…….. 
1. Develop at least 5 questions about your topic. Record the questions in your Google Doc.
2. Write each question on a Post-It and hang in GRAPESI category. (GRAPESI is the acronym that we use for the different characteristics of a culture: G – Geography; R- Religion; A – Arts and Learning; P – Political Systems; E – Economics; S – Social Organization; I – Interactions with others. I want them to begin to think about the larger category that their topic fits into and to see the other topics that connect with their own.) If your question fits into more than one category, write it again. Hang it in every category into which it fits.

3. Choose the top 4 categories that are the most connected to your topic.
4. Record the 4 categories in your Doc.
5. Go to the location of each of these categories. Read all the questions on the Post-Its that are there.
6. Add at least one question that is of interest to you or connects to your topic. Record any questions that you think might help you think about your topic.
7. Rotate through at least 4 of the categories.
8. Now review all of your questions. Choose your top 5. Write those five together on your Doc. Consider what is interesting to you about the questions and about your topic? Is there overlap within your questions?
9. It is time to narrow your focus down to the top 2 questions that you have that will serve as the focus for this work.

I am hoping that the process of sharing their questions and also seeing what other students are thinking and wondering will widen their own thinking. I hope that they will become more curious, so that they will be doing research that has some meaning to them that goes beyond simply getting it done and turning it in.

One response to “Building Engagement in Research Projects

  1. Cool. So, I’m reading the posts in the wrong order, but I love this plan. I’ll be interested to see how they respond to this type of thinking as you revisit it again and again. One of the blessings I have with using the thinking routines is that my school has adopted using them. My students are actually more familiar (and adept) with them than I am. This is great because as I present a problem, I just tell them which routine they want to use and they are then able to respond appropriately. It’s great. If I’m wanting them to think metaphorically, we talk about 3-2-1 Bridge. If I want them to dig deeper, I’ll suggest they use Claim-Support-Question. These are great tools if you use them over and over.

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