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Ministry of Education.

Learning task 4

Learning intention(s)
  1. Learn and understand the inquiry research process
  2. Research an issue of choice
  3. Formulate rich questions for research.
  4. Write an essay on a chosen issue, using accurate structure, vocabulary and content.
KCs/Principles/Values focus Thinking
Participating and contributing
Using language, symbols and text
Managing self

Student inquiry in to issue of choice

In this learning task students are expected to choose an environmental issue/topic of their choice and complete an inquiry in to their chosen issue. They are expected to write an essay response on their topic, as well as completing a presentation of their topic. Their presentation can take on any form they choose. For example, a poster board, booklet, powerpoint, speech etc. Their essay and/or presentation will be the summative assessment for the unit. By giving students choice in the way in which they present their research (other than the essay) they are more likely to engage with the process and present in a mode that suits them.

  1. Remind students of the learning outcomes for the unit. Explain to them that they are now going to be conducting their own inquiry in to an environmental issue or topic of their choice. Also explain that they will be required to write an essay relating to their issue as part of the final assessment.
  2. Begin by introducing the students to the inquiry booklet. Go through this booklet in detail with them, outlining and modelling each stage of the process. 1. Choosing a topic/issue 2. Deciding on questions to research 3. Finding relevant and appropriate information 4. Recording the information in note form 5. Drafting the information 6. Presenting the information in published format 6. Self assessment

Step 1: Choosing a topic. It is important that students choose a topic or issue that interests them. They can choose an environmental issue, topic or event/disaster for the purpose of this assignment. Students who require a high level of teacher support often find research easier if they initially choose a very specific topic or incident as opposed to a broader issue. E.g The Exxon Valdez Oil spill as opposed to the complex issue of Global Warming.

Conduct a Think/Pair/Share task with the students. Students begin by individually recording in their books any environmental issues or events they can think of. Give them approximately 5 minutes to do so. Ask students to share their responses with a partner and extend their lists. Conclude by compiling a class brainstorm of issues and topics that they have come up with. By conducting a think/pair/share task, students are able to focus their thinking, clarify their ideas and extend their knowledge.

Ask students to narrow down their choices to the 4 issues/events that they know the most about. Ask them to write down anything they already know about these 4 issues/events. This activates prior knowledge and helps them hook in to the topic that they are most interested in. Students then choose the topic they wish to research.

Step 2: Deciding on questions for research. Choosing the correct type of questions is crucial for conducting an inquiry task.

Begin by asking students if they know the difference between open and closed questions. Can they give examples?

Question Dice

Using question dice enables students to form questions and to develop an understanding of different levels of questioning. It provides a useful tool to create questions and also to monitor understanding of the text. In the context of this task it is to assist students in generating a range of questions for research. (ELP Page 96)

Provide students with a set of dice (this can be individual or in small groups depending on how many students within the class). One die in each pair has basic question starters on each side: Who, What, Why, Where, How and When.

The second die has verbs on each side. For example: is/are, could/would, should, will/can.

In small groups or as individuals ask students to roll the sets of dice. They then generate as many questions as possible about their chosen topic.

Ask students to highlight the questions they best think could help lead to them explaining what their ssue is, why it is an issue and how it could/can be solved or how it has been solved. (Some students may choose to use these exact questions, which is also fine.)

Students then narrow down their question choices to 4 or 5 main questions. These should be recorded in their booklets.

Step 3: Finding and selecting relevant information. Ask students to highlight key words within their questions. This will help them in their search for information. Ask them to brainstorm any other key words associated with their topic and record these in their booklet. The strategies below can be used to assist students in finding relevant information. These may need to be repeated over the course of the inquiry and with individual students as they are finding information.

Trash or Treasure: Choosing the best texts

Students often struggle to find relevant texts or information. In this strategy, students learn how to make decisions relating to the relative usefulness of whole texts. (ELP page 106)

Find a selection of texts on an issue. For example, Global Warming. These should be from a range of places e.g internet, book, newspaper. These could also be from texts the students have already found relating to their research.

Place the students in groups. Give copies of the texts - to each group. Pose a question related to the topic of the selected texts. For example “What are some of the consequences of 1080 poisoning on animals and humans?” . Ask the students to rank the texts on whether they are relevant to the question (treasure) or not (trash). Pose another question and ask them to re rank the texts. This helps the students develop the understanding that the purpose for reading dictates whether or not a text will be useful. For example a text about the effects of 1080 may not necessarily be helpful if they are answering a question about where possums are found. This is a particulary useful strategy to use with material from the internet as students will often print off pages and pages of internet material which is irrelevant to the topic.

What the teacher looks for:Are the students discussing the relevance of the material and reflecting on the purpose of the task as they sort through the texts?Are they able to justify their rankings?
Do their justifications include comments about text bias, age of the text, content and text form?

Distinguishing between fact and opinion

It is important that when conducting research, students are able to identify and distinguish between fact and opinion. This also enables students to evaluate the content. (ELP Page 107)

Prepare a series of 10 to 12 statements about an issue. Include some that are obviously based on fact or opinion and some that could be a mixture.

In small groups or pairs, give each group a copy of the statements on cards. Ask them to decide whether they are fact or opinion.

What the teacher looks for:
Are the students using information in the text to identify facts and opinions?
Are they thinking critically about the text?

An alternative to this is to provide the students with a newspaper article that contains both fact and opinion. Ask them to go through and highlight using two different colours the facts vs the opinions.

Students should now be working on finding information to answer their chosen research questions.

Prior to commencing their research, encourage students to set themselves goals on what they want to achieve. For example, these could relate specifically to the learning outcomes or on how they manage their time, the grade they hope to achieve etc.

Step 4: Recording information/Making notes

Students should be recording their responses/making notes in the booklet. Some may prefer to write notes on refill or type them up in word. Encourage students to use the dot and jot method of making notes as this encourages them to keep their notes short and in note form. It also assists in discouraging copying word for word. It is also beneficial to remind students to include photocopies of information from books or printouts from the internet that they have used to find information. This is a good strategy in preparing them for senior school and some of the requirements they will face. It also encourages them to write notes in their own words.

Teachers should provide regular feedback to students about the notes/progress they are making. Students should also be completing a research log in their books. This assists them to keep on track and meet any deadlines.

Step 5: Drafting their information

Scaffold the students through the template in their inquiry booklet. Point out to students that this is very much like the writing frame used to draft their first essay as it has an introduction, paragraphs and conclusion. Point out to students that the format may alter depending on how they have decided to present their findings. This can also be used to draft their final essay. NOTE: Students will require feedback when drafting in order to make any changes/follow advice on their published findings. This feedback should be written and specific so students know exactly what to work on or change for the final product.

Step 6: Publishing

Students now publish their findings in the format they have chosen. It is important that students are given the opportunity to present their findings/research to the class or a wider audience. This then makes it meaningful and more relevant to them. The final product should be marked according to the marking schedule.

Essay: teachers need to decide if the essay for this assignment will be a scaffolded process or completed entirely independently. Some students may require additional support, depending on ability. Once again, provide students with the explanation checklist (Assessment resource bank – WL3712) so students can self assess their essay for the required structure and content.

Published on: 20 Dec 2010