Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-Informational Piece with Personal Choice

I'm so sad I have missed posting for the last three days. I had lots of great ideas when I was planning my week, but my body had other plans. I ended up feeling awful on Wednesday afternoon, so awful that I called the doctor only to find out that I had strep. Needless to say I was dead to the world Wednesday night and all day Thursday. I went to work yesterday (because lets be honest it is more of a pain to leave sub plans at this time of year than to work when you still feel crummy.) Thankfully I was able to sleep in today and I feel so much better. On to my real post...

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.

What do you do to motivate your students to write this time of year?


  1. So glad you're feeling better! AND what a great freebie! I find that giving students some choice is also a good way to motivate them to write.
    I'm Lovin Lit

  2. I so agree with so many things in your post. Your comment about voice and 5 paragraph essays...I couldn't agree more!

    I love that you let them choose their topics. This is how I did it this year as well for our research papers. Unfortunately, I am responsible for SS standards this coming year, so I may have to require SS topics to cover all my standards.
    Have a great weekend!
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners

  3. So glad to hear you're feeling better Bethany! I agree, students should have more choice (especially since it's their writing), they have more ownership. Sometimes with all these state tests, adults forget how important this is! Thanks for sharing your freebie and linking up!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  4. Thanks Bethany for this resource! It's a great way to organize a research paper and allows the students to be successful!
    Doodling Around in 6th Grade

  5. I love things like this that helps kids work independently and keep track of their progress. Thanks!