High School Research

    download Today research skills have finally grown up. Gone are the typical projects where students chose a country or a famous person and looked up information, mostly from encyclopedias, and then presented their information on a poster board or in a duotang folder. The prominence of the Internet has forced teachers to make research a more meaningful experience and also one that needs to emphasize authoritative sources and authentic purposes. In this blog post I am going to present two types of research – short projects that model research skills, and project-based learning.

 I would like to give thanks to my PLNs who share wonderful materials from which I glean many of the ideas I present below. Links to their blogs and site are at the end of this post. Here also is a link to my

Livebinder of High School Research Resources



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I recently picked up a magazine published here in Florida called Forum by the Florida Humanities Council. In the Spring 2014 issue they focused on the citrus industry. The articles are fascinating. Not only did the articles present information on the history citrus industry but also on the issues of migrant workers, pesticide pollution, and the disease called “citrus greening.” I realized that this issue would serve as a great source to model for research skills and for the long term projects upon which my students will embark. The skills that could be addressed are : data, primary sources, presentation of information, citing and factchecking, infographics, and action. The topic of this issue also lends itself well to Florida literature and titles like A Land Remembered and Muck City.

Here is a list of Florida Resources from Florida Humanities Council

Here is an outline of how to use the articles for research models.

Can Florida Save the Orange


This is a great way to emphasize one or two research skills where the number of sources or types of sources a=can be controlled. The emphasis can be on summarizing effectively, paraphrasing, internal citations and quotes.




While these are generally a part of the a long term research project, annotated bibliographies can be a great tool for teaching authentic sources, searching skills, diverse information sources and types as well as citing sources correctly.

Edutopia Example

Project Example from Hartnell

Purdue Owl


This what research is all about but it does not come easily. When the majority of schools have embraced PBL, high school teachers will have an easier time adopting this important method. Project based learning emphasizes authentic research that requires students to g beyond the four walls of the classroom by connecting with the local and global community. However, there is always the issue of time and skills. many teachers get frustrated that students don’t have the basic skills and then the project gets bogged down with the amount of skill building and losing the momentum of the project itself. The advice I have seen the most often is to start small. There are many great tools available from High Tech High and Buck Institute.


Multigenre Projects

Thanks to:

Larry Ferlazzo

Michele Luhtala

Unquiet Librarian




This project illustrates all the important aspects of learning – literacy, evaluation, critical thinking/reading, numeracy, all through investigating and presenting data with fairness and accuracy.

See Telling a Story on Langwitches

6th graders, under the facilitation of their Math teacher, Laurel Janewicz, have learned to take data, analyze the data and tell a story with it. They are demonstrating their understanding of Math concepts, data graphs, misleading graphs and communication skills.

Laurel chose to give authentic, relevant and meaningful data (not invented data) to her students to analyze from the results of a Challenge Success survey taken the previous school year at the school. The survey compiled data about the school’s extra curricular activities, homework habits, parent involvement, student engagement, sleep patterns etc.

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Often forgotten, but a vital topic for our students. Larry Ferlazzo has curated powerful videos that help with “walking in someone else’s shoes. For example, recently experimented with schizophrenia to see how he function with voices constantly speaking to him.

Also see the excellent PBS program, Misunderstood Minds where you can experience different learning challenges.

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Close reading of Poem from Read Write Talk

The Perfect Poem to Close Read! 27 10 2013

Great site – visit READ WRITE TALK for more great ideas.

We did a close reading of the poem, Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser last week. I read the poem aloud, then had the students read it again individually and then hold their thinking and note their observations, thoughts, questions etc..
Then we brok the poem down and looked at the tone of the poem. We found words that stuck out to us that showed the tone (broken, something went wrong,money scarce, winters cold). I had the students wrote the mood down and then find specific lines that supported the mood. We noted how each stanza talked about a different person: a man, woman and child. I had the students go back to the poem and find out specific things we knew about the people in the poem, and list them (the man was tall, the woman liked lilacs, the child played with a tractor etc..). We looked at repetition, figurative language and we discussed specific word choices that the author made.

Click here to check out the poem

Although we did a close reading of this poem, the students really did a nice job. They noticed a lot of really interesting things.   I liked this poem because we could discuss all of the things I mentioned above and the students were able to understand the poem. They didn’t feel like the content, topic or language was above their heads. It was a manageable length to close read, and  It didn’t scare them.

After we read the poem I had my students write a journal prompt about a place where they live, or have things. What would their room, house, or objects say about them. I also showed them this image. I felt this image really went well with the poem. They shared their writing and we all enjoyed a close reading and a writing session.

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THE MATH OF LOVE – from Brain Pickings

The Math of Love: Calculating the Odds of Finding Your Soulmate


The science of why there are roughly 871 special someones for you out there.

Since the dawn of recorded history, poets and philosophers have pondered the nature of love and, in recent times, so have scientists. But can the concrete lens of science really be applied to something as seemingly abstract and amorphous as amore? Joe Hanson, mastermind of the wonderful science-plus compendium It’s Okay To Be Smart, has a new online show in partnership with PBS and the latest episode explores what the search for extraterrestrial life can teach us about our odds of finding that much-romanticized human soulmate, using the Fermi paradox, the Drake equation, and a lesson in love from Carl Sagan — who, with his timelessly magnificent Golden Record love story, should know a thing or two about the wisdom of the heart.





Create a collage of words and customise text, colour and layout.


This app allows you to draw a line or choose a created line and the add text to the line.



Type the text you wish to use and customise font, size and colour and then draw on the device and the words appear.


With this app you can take a photo or use one from the gallery, type in a set of words and the app will apply the words to the image. There are a few styles to choose from and colour schemes. The effects look great.

Art and critical thinking

How art can help you analyze


Can art save lives? Not exactly, but our most prized professionals (doctors, nurses, police officers) can learn real world skills through art analysis. Studying art like René Magritte’s Time Transfixed can enhance communication and analytical skills, with an emphasis on both the seen and unseen. Amy E. Herman explains why art historical training can prepare you for real world investigation.

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How Picasso Helps to Solve a Murder Case

Want to see an academic exercise in dissecting a painting? Watch this TED-Ed Lesson: The scene of the three wise men offering gifts to a newborn Jesus was widely painted during the Renaissance era, so how did painter Sandro Botticelli create a version that’s still well known today? James Earle describes who and what set Botticelli’s Adoration of the Magi apart in the annals of art history.


A Simple, Two-Paragraph Template that Helps Kids to Really Argue

November 3, 2013

In the last post, I shared the new argumentative focus I’m experimenting with for the article of the week (AoW) assignment. Rather than choosing just any type of article, I’m looking for articles that argue.

(By the way, in case you aren’t aware of this, Kelly Gallagher is the person from whose work I first learned about AoWs. More of his work is here.

It’s not exactly the discovery of the polio vaccine, but still, it’s pretty cool.

I like this new focus because one of my key hopes for AoW is that my kids won’t merely become aware of something that’s happening in the world–like, in last week’s article, the growing popularity of largely unregulated e-cigarettes–but that they’ll also see current issues as argumentative conversations, held at water coolers and bus stops and in editorial pages and the blogosphere.

But I want more than that–I also want each article to allow my students to join in on the conversation.

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Critical Literacy Across the Curriculum

How can an English teacher help to develop critical literacy across the curriculum? What follows is a guest post from NMHS teachers who have been collaborating with English teacher Joanna Westbrook to create authentic literacy tasks in each of their disciplines.  You will hear from a science teacher, a social studies teacher, and an art teacher as each provides her take on how the Common Core and 21st Century learning goals affect what goes on in the classroom. 

Image credit: http://allthingslearning.wordpress.com/tag/critical-literacy/

A Biology Teacher’s Thoughts on Critical Literacy by Lynne Torpie

Science teachers can tend to be myopic, focusing on acquiring content detail and teaching the steps of the scientific method instead of fostering the investigative, critical thinking and written communication skills that embody real-world scientific endeavors.  As science teachers for the 21st century, we are tasked with producing, at the bare minimum, citizens who are conversant with the language of science, and who can read, make sense of and make decisions about scientific issues.  Optimally, we inspire our students to pursue a career in which they will be posing relevant questions, and using research and inquiry to answer those questions to contribute to humanity’s general body of knowledge or, through technology and engineering, solve problems. Literacy skills are the foundation upon which these outcomes are built.

But we as science teachers can be daunted by the mandate to incorporate English language skills into the curriculum.  We have neither the training to assess such skills nor the language to develop such assessments.  We are concerned about our students’ weak explanatory writing skills and would like to see those skills improve. But we need help.  While we can develop assessments that approximate authentic science writing tasks, we need help identifying the literacy elements we should be assessing. We need guidance in phrasing a rubric so it is clear to both students and teachers what we are looking for when assessing literacy in science.  Even more importantly, we need to partner with English teachers to provide the scaffolding necessary for our students to write informational text with increasing clarity.

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