Sunday, April 7, 2013

Helping my Seniors with their Final Senior Project:

Since I became the head of the English department at my school, I have been wanting to re-vamp the Senior Project. Before me, students were just asked to research a topic they were interested in and then write a paper on what they learned. There wasn't much help choosing a specific direction, or developing an argument. Instead, it was simply, "Ok, you need to write a paper- GO!" I thought it seemed disjointed and without much focus.

So- I thought about how I organized myself when I was writing papers in AP High School English and then when I went to college.

What did I need to do? How did I organize my notes, sources, tidbits I found through the hours of reading material and compiling information?

I also kept in mind the population of students I teach- they are generally students who have special needs. I have students with ADHD (most actually), students who are dyslexic, have non-verbal disorders, processing disorders, writing disorders, Asperger's, social-emotional issues, and everything in between. Most of my students are not known for completing much let alone writing a response argumentative research paper.

So I thought- I need to break this process WAY WAY down. Back to the fundamentals, back to the absolute basics and approach it in a foundation to finished product concept kind of way. I created worksheets that helped narrow down their focus, lectured on the difference between a fun topic and a topic that would do well for an argument.

Then, I started writing organizational worksheets to help them by categorizing their paper into "Sub-topics." Each of these sub-topics reflected the main topic, but it was separated in such a way that they could research on each sub-topic separately, thereby reducing the feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the 8 pages. Since each sub-topic helps their paper in a different way, they are separated on this worksheet as well. But since each sub-topic reflects a part of their argument, they can do general research and place the information under the different sub-topics.

I will keep updating on how this approach is working for these students, but after my initial experience last year, I will say that every student completed the paper on time and with significant research skills learned and understood.
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