Tuesday, November 4, 2014


This week I will be at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge -- I hope to meet up with Mary Ann there. They invited me to come meet with 7th and 8th graders who are beginning work on research projects. As it happens just a few weeks ago I was in Kalamazoo, Michigan at a public school where the librarian and teachers had exactly the same request. I've been thinking about how I can be of help.

In one way, there is a mismatch. As a high school teacher in Ann Arbor pointed out, the assignments mandate that the students use at least, say, two sources -- with some stipulations about books, internet, database, etc. But when I research a book I may use hundreds of sources; I read through the secondary literature in some depth to orient myself even as I look for primary sources. What part of that agenda is useful to students just starting out who are required to use a fraction of those resources? But as Marina -- who has been teaching a narrative nonfiction class to college undergraduates -- pointed out, there is a connection. Whether it is her students at William Paterson, the middle or high school students I meet, or both of us when we write individually or together, there are basically two steps.

First we develop a research strategy: what resources are we after, where will we find them, how do they build knowledge? This is where a librarian is the go-to person. Students need to become accustomed to seeking out the librarian to develop a research plan. Then, as you read through your sources, you formulate questions. The plans gives you information. What you know leads to questions. Questions send you back to research, research gives you information, information suggests questions.

That is the formula for research.

Speaking of research -- I urge everyone to read Paul Fleischman's Eyes Wide Open blog, the last post which takes information just released to the world and shows how it illustrates the points in his book is just perfect for us as a adults, and to use with young people: HERE

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