I'm excited to be able to link up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching. This week I want to share what I do with my students for our last major writing piece of the year. My students and I spend the last few months of school really diving into nonfiction writing. We start off "easy" with our biome posters that I blogged about here. The students love the posters and it is a fun way for them to learn the how-to of proper research and how to write solid topic and concluding sentences for informational paragraphs.
Once that project is finished, I introduce the students to writing a true research paper. This paper does fit into the "five paragraph essay" but I've learned over time to not "bind" my students to that mold. Many of my students end up writing much more than five paragraphs (and having a much better voice than the traditional five paragraph essay allows.) The reason why is because I give them personal choice in their topic. The students and I work together to pick a topic that interests them. I have them jot down three topics they would want to learn more about (I tell them it must be a person, place, or thing.)
I then look over the list and meet with them one-on-one for a few min. to decide what topic they are most interested in, and what topic I can actually find good books and websites for them to use as references. Every year I've been able to give my students one of their top three choices. This year a few of the topics being researched are: soccer, history of weapons, dolphins, pandas, Japan, Hawaii, Nez-Prez Native Americans, etc.
Once their topic is chosen we work as a class to create questions that we want to research (that way their paper is focused!) It is amazing how well they work. They don't mind writing and researching because it is a topic they really care about.
I'm working on the finishing touches of my nonfiction unit for TPT, but here is a freebie for you. It is the plan sheet I give to my students to help keep them on track. You can download it here. It is a word document so you can edit it to fit your students needs.