Recently, my class worked through a research project that required students to read for evidence, analyze the material, and form an opinion based on the evidence. At the end of the unit, we held an open house for our families.
We study Florida history, and my county has us start with Florida today. To start our unit, students used the social studies textbook to take notes on the economy and the major Florida industries. After we had our notes, students used task cards I created to further their research of the four of the major Florida industries. They used a note sheet to help organize their information.
Once students completed their notes, we discussed them as a class and made sure everyone had accurate notes. (The notes were a terrific way to check reading comprehension – and it was pretty obvious who needed more support.)
Analyze the Facts
After that, we discussed ranking the industries. I used some analogies to help students understand the concept. For example, who wins a cross country race? Whoever is the fastest – simple, one measurement. You are either the fastest or you aren’t. What about a bake-off at the country fair? Judges use more than one measurement – color, taste, texture. So, in order to determine which industry was the most important to Florida’s economy, we would first have to determine which facts we felt were the most important.
I did not make students focus on a particular fact. In hindsight, I would give students more guidance in this area. We talked about using how much money an industry made as a factor or how many people were employed in an industry. Students also discussed other information, such as the number of companies involved in the industry. For their ranking sheet, all I really wanted to see was that they had some logic behind their rankings. That is why the fact sheet made them justify their first and last place rankings. Those reasons helped me to understand what they were using for their judgements – or if they were just randomly writing down facts.