Focus on writing and research

We’re wrapping up our note taking unit in Academic Support and Study Skills. In the past two weeks, we have been practicing the skills we’ve learned by taking notes in our other classes, and we’ve reviewed two or three of those notes using this scoring guide. My message has been that practicing note taking in my class is a little like fishing in a swimming pool, while taking notes in other classes is like heading down to the river and going after some wild fish. I’ve enjoyed seeing all the interesting notes students have taken, and I’ve learned quite a few things myself. For example, some of your have found I Pad apps like Notability very useful, while others have had much more success using paper and pencil.

5 paraIn the coming weeks, the focus for many students in both Academic Support and Study Skills will be on writing. (I say many and not all, because some students will be focusing on other things–like math–based on your particular learning needs.) Many of us will be practicing the skills used for writing a traditional ‘five paragraph essay’. Of course there is nothing magical about the number five, but many students benefit from a review of the old, ‘Introduction; reason/example 1; reason/example 2; reason/example 3; conclusion‘ format. There are many other ways to write essays of course, but the five paragraph essay is still widely used in  many high schools and universities. Purdue University’s On-Line Writing Lab put it this way:

A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. This is, however, by no means the only formula for writing such essays. If it sounds straightforward, that is because it is; in fact, the method consists of (a) an introductory paragraph (b) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and (c) a conclusion…

We’ll be looking at what we can learn from that tried-and-true formula.

Eighth graders will be doing some of this along with some explicit mini-lessons to support them on their Population Project research paper. (There are a lot of good resources for Pop on the AES Pop blog, by the way. Look for those here.)