See below for the full transcript of the #TCRWP Chat.
by Anna Gratz Cockerille
Nowhere in literacy work are reading and writing more inextricably linked than in the research process. When a learner is researching, the skills called into play run from decoding and processing large amounts and higher levels of text, to creating organizational systems to record information, to analyzing and interpreting findings for others. How exciting, then, when students are researching, their authentic literacy skills on display. It’s important to provide students with the opportunity to research various topics, in various forms.
A research project should be alive, evolving as the researcher learns more. In Tackling Complexity, part of the Units of Study for Teaching Reading series by Lucy Calkins and colleagues, coauthor Katie Clement, writes, "Students will need to approach texts with their own agenda, seeing how their research works in relation to their project, not just regurgitating that research” (p. 95). The research process is not unlike the writing process. Students make initial plans, but those plans are subject to revision as students delve more deeply into their projects. Students draft findings, but the real work is not in the drafting but in the multiple rounds of revision they undertake as they develop the final versions of their findings. As in writing, they develop theories or thesis statements about their learning. As they learned to determine the main ideas in their reading, they will be called upon to develop their own main ideas and to revise those as they gather new information about topics.
Of course, research naturally flows from nonfiction reading. In Tackling Complexity, students embark on research projects of their own choosing. By immersing themselves in topics that interest them, students learn key inquiry skills to apply to other research opportunities. Through investing in chosen topics, they rise to greater and greater challenges, including attacking texts with higher levels of complexity.
The depth and strength of any research inquiry is directly related to the level of accessible information to the researcher. Before engaging in powerful research, students must learn to read powerful texts. In the first section of the unit, before their research begins, students learn specific nonfiction reading skills in a carefully orchestrated way. These skills are crucial precursors to students being able to access higher levels of text and thus, higher levels of information about topics. As Katie writes at the start of the second section of the unit, “If you have a student who is deeply interested in the Knights Templar, for example, and the only books about them are written above the level at which he can comprehend, he is denied the chance to learn more about his topic of personal interest and expertise” (p. 94). Further, nurturing the nonfiction reading skills necessary for greater research success will invariably help students in their reading lives. "And so helping him get stronger at reading nonfiction is vital. Reading nonfiction will offer students more reading selection, more of a reading life, and above all, more reading power” (p. 94).
When students learn to engage in research, classrooms can expect a great deal of energy and independence. Of course, all of this independence and reliance on a breadth of skills means teachers have their work cut out for them. Students will need vigilance, support, and cheerleading, in ways that will pay off long term. Join Katie Clements, author of Tackling Complexity, for a Twitter Chat tomorrow, February 10, at 7:30 p.m. EST to discuss writing and the research process. Plan to share and take away a multitude of tips to help support students as they put their nonfiction reading and writing skills to work to engage in deep, powerful inquiry.
Come chat with the @TCRWP!
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Anna Cockerille is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer based in New York City. She has taught in K–8 classrooms all over the world in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Auckland, New Zealand. Anna has been a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP) and an adjunct instructor for the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. She writes at Two Writing Teachers.
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