5th Grade Research Paper Organizer

Connection (3-5 mins): Students should be seated on the carpet with a partner.  They will be expected to turn and talk throughout this lesson.  Researchers, today is a big day! Today, we will begin the actual research process.  All of you have selected topics, formulated questions to guide your research and checked out books from the library.  Now we will begin to look for answers to our questions.  First we must understand the structure of research paper.

Teach/Active Engagement (10-12 mins):  Teacher places an example research paper on the overhead (Acid Rain, Killer Rain).  Researches, do you notice how each heading in this paper is a question.  The questions helped guide the research process.  I am completing my research paper on Abraham Lincoln and I already formulated my three questions to help guide my research.  Teacher places graphic organizer on the overhead.  Teacher writes in research questions under each heading.  Sample questions are listed below.

1.    What was Lincoln’s childhood like?
2.    How did Lincoln decide to become president?
3.    What important laws did Lincoln create as president?

Now that I have those questions, I can use my sources to find the answers to those questions.  Remember to cite your sources on the graphic organizer as well.  Teacher opens a book about Abraham Lincoln (or the topic of study for the teacher).  I will record the title, author, and publishing information for this book because I know it is titled Abraham Lincoln’s Childhood, so I assume this book will help me answer my first question.  Teacher reads aloud the first few pages of the book. 

Researchers, I learned so much already!  I learned that Lincoln was born in Kentucky to parents who were farmers.  I think that is important to know about his childhood so I will record that under my first question.  I also learned that Lincoln only attended school for eighteen months.  I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for him.  I will include this detail under my first question as well. 

Did you notice how I took my time to read through the information.  This is a hard skill because we have to be critical readers and figure out what facts are most important to answer our questions.  Once you find facts that you want to include in your paper, you should write them on your graphic organizer.  This will help us create our paragraphs later on in the research process.  I will be walking around the room to help during the lesson and use your group mates for support if you are unsure about what information to include.  This is your research paper, so include facts you are interested in!  Off you go!

Workshop Time (15-20 mins): Students return to their seats and begin their research.  They have already formulated their research questions in a previous lesson and will only need to copy these questions onto the graphic organizer.  The majority of this workshop time will be spent with students reading their books and taking notes on the graphic organizer of information they find.  This lesson is a synthesis of many previous lessons and may need to be extended to another day depending on the academic level of students.

Exit Slip/Share (3-5 mins):  Students should turn in their graphic organizers at the end of the lesson.  The teacher can use this to judge if another workshop time is needed to complete this part of the assignment.  This is also a good way to see which students are copying from the book and those that are rewriting in their own words. 

Reflection: This lesson is very difficult for students.  It is important to make sure students are using sources that are on their reading level so they do not struggle to find answers to their questions.  The synthesis of information is difficult for students especially if they have a lot of resources.  I suggest allowing each student to start with one book and then if more resources are needed slowly introduce more.

Recently my oldest son came home from school with a 10-paragraph research paper assignment.  After choosing The Holocaust as his topic, he set out to gather knowledge and facts.  His teacher gave the students an organizational tool which involved index cards.  Basically, he was to brainstorm 10 broad topics related to The Holocaust and write them on 10 different index cards.  Then as he set out to gather his research, he was to have at least 5 index cards containing information and/or facts to go with each of the topic cards.  These would eventually help him to develop his 10 paragraphs for the research paper.

While I thought this was a great organizational tool and a very concrete way to help the students stay on topic, I quickly realized that this method was probably not the easiest for all kids.  While he did fine, I would see him occasionally shuffling through cards and getting them mixed up.  It got me thinking about those students we all have in our classes who have true struggles with organization and would stand to lose research because they misplace or mix up their cards.

This graphic organizer follows the same organizational pattern as the index cards, but has students writing all facts for each paragraph on one sheet of paper. So for my son’s research paper assignment, he would have had 10 pages to keep in a folder, as opposed to several index cards.  Obviously, students would have one organizer for each paragraph of their paper, no matter the length of the research paper that was assigned.  I believe there is a place for both types of organizational tools and there are most certainly students who might need one or the other – so why not have both options available?

Multi-Paragraph Graphic Organizer

Meets CCSS Writing Standards for Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2 & 5.2 – Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic, and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

Incidentally – have you heard of a website called EasyBib?  My son’s teacher let them use it to create their bibliographies for this paper.  It was AWESOME!  No more the days of double checking every single comma, colon, and capital letter to make sure your bibliography was in perfect Elements of Style format!  You enter the resources you used and this site generates a ready-to-print bibliography!  GENIUS!  Sorry…was very excited about this obviously!  Have your students try it!  The parents will thank you!

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Filed Under: Blog, Nonfiction, Production and Distribution of Writing, Text Types and Purposes, Writer's Workshop Management

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