I'd appreciate any articles or personal insight.
I don't see this as a discrete learning task, but as a process that begins early and is ongoing. For us it begins with things like retelling family stories, recounting our days from different perspectives around the dinner table, explaining what's interesting about a book we're reading, giving an overview of a magazine article that might interest someone, etc. etc.. It turns into writing when the kids correspond with friends and family, make blog entries, keep journals. It is refined when they are inspired to put together projects, Prezis or Powerpoints. Interestingly my kids have never been tempted to plagiarize complete sentences. Perhaps that's because they weren't pushed to do research projects before they were motivated and ready to equipped with the literacy skills necessary to craft their own text to their own satisfaction. They were widely enough read before being put in a position of creating their own reports to understand the conventional use and attribution of quoted text.
The short answer... I begin building in my kids the skills they'll need to put things in their own words from toddlerhood. I don't ask them to write research reports until adolescence. They've had copious natural experience with all the building block skills by then, and have developed the critical thinking skills and experience necessary to recognize good writing. It flows quite naturally and easily out of that.
Mountain mama to one great kid and three great grown-ups
moominmama wrote " For us it begins with things like retelling family stories, recounting our days from different perspectives around the dinner table, explaining what's interesting about a book we're reading, giving an overview of a magazine article that might interest someone, etc. etc.."
We do all of those things too.
The curriculum asks that they write "reports" about specific items from their readings and that they do some research to supplement. When they are reporting on facts, they have a hard time summarizing and/or rephrasing the facts. Reports seem like standard work in this particular curriculum (new to us), so I assume that this curriculum has involved reports, or narrative written review, much more than public school ever did.
They can write their own impressions and interpretations in an analytical or responsive paper, but they don't seem to understand how to present facts in a report easily without copying the source. Perhaps it does come more with age, as the 7th grader has an easier time with it than the 5th grader.
What age is adolescence? We are well beyond toddlerhood, so I'm looking for concrete strategies to implement now.
Adolescence is between puberty and adulthood.
But it sounds like it doesn't matter what age worked for my kids, because you are constrained by a curriculum that expects them to be able to do it now, at whatever ages they happen to be. It sounds like they need an intermediate step between reading the original text and writing something, a step that allows them to re-organize and rephrase.
Do they know how do point-form notes? Not full sentences, just key words and points? If so you could suggest they do that while researching, and then use the notes to make their own sentences, without the original source in front of them.
So if they're doing a report on bats and read this:
"Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight."
... their point-form notes might look like this:
- order Chiroptera
- forelimbs - webbed wings
- only mammals - sustained flight
And then, without looking at the original source, they use those point-form notes to create the following:
"Bats are mammals that are from the order Chiroptera. Their forelimbs are actually webbed wings. They are the only mammals that can do sustained flying."
If they don't like the idea of doing point-form notes, or aren't able to master it, try story-webbing, otherwise known as mind-mapping. You draw the main idea in a circle on the centre of a blank page. "Bats," circled. Then you connect other word-ideas to that balloon using lines, to make a web of ideas. One line might go to "mammals" and from there two lines might branch out to "only flying mammal" and "Order: Chiroptera." Another line might lead from "Bats" to the word "habitat" or "diet" or "life-cycle", with related ideas attached to those. Then they would use this web to generate their own sentences. There's an example near the bottom of this page.
Mountain mama to one great kid and three great grown-ups
By the time they need to write reports, a big part of the writing lessons should be what is proper in citing and avoiding plagiarism, in whatever way is age appropriate. They should know if they use someone else's words how to put quotes around it and where it's from, and if they change the words to still put where it's from but no quote marks. No need to do strict MLA or anything at first, just the basic info included (title, author, and page, if it's on one source anyway then just the page number). I thought I was cheating and felt guilty paraphrasing and reorganizing things when I did this kind of summary assignment as a kid (10-15) but didn't know what else to do, didn't learn til my early entry college English class it was great but you have to cite.
Thanks so much for the tips!
I like the idea of point form notes and think that might be do-able, especially if I'm not pushing her, the 5th grader, to develop the notes into sentences right away.
I'd be happy if she could just take the notes and not push the actual reports so much.
My son, the 7th grader, showed me that sort of story webbing or mind mapping when I asked him if he'd done outlines. I didn't really understand what he was doing, so thanks for that info. The point form looks clearest to me, but I'll let him choose whichever format works best for him.
Jamie, I do need to emphasize that they list their sources. I've said it repeatedly but not enforced it rigorously yet.
we use IEW to teach writing & the program starts off with getting the student to comfortably paraphrase stories. it follows the method of using a keyword outline. basically you read the sentence and choose 3 words per sentence that will help you later summarize the story in your own words. there's more to IEW than that of course, but that gives you the gist of how it gets the student into summaries without copying.
homeschooling mama to DD 10 & DS 7
My daughter still has problems working with the assigned topic, but she loosens up so much when I give her the freedom to adapt the topic to her own interests. I'm not pushing the research and paraphrasing for her yet, even though it's part of the Oak Meadow 5th grade writing. It seems more important to let her get more comfortable with putting down her own thoughts.
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