For those who don’t know, I’m the Essentials tutor at our Classical Conversations community. (It’s a Language Arts program) Anyway, right now we are working on a big research paper about a famous person of the Middle Ages. We use the IEW writing program which REALLY makes it easy to break down the steps of writing into simple stages that the kids can do. At the same time, I’m also enrolled in some Bible college classes at my church. Guess what I’m working on? That’s right! A research paper on a famous person in history!
Let me tell you how much it’s helped me to have been in Essentials for three years now! I was always pretty good at Language Arts and made good (yes, I know that’s a “banned word”) grades on writing assignments….but let’s face it….a good grade on a public high school paper isn’t saying much. I also graduated with a B.S. from college and wrote many papers….but still, I always felt like I was just kinda “winging” it when I wrote my papers. In the Bible college classes, all the adults are so worried about writing their papers. They’ve either NEVER written a research paper or it’s been so long they forgot how.
I think part of the problem with our confidence when it comes to research papers is that they were never taught….they were just assigned. I like what Jon Western said about research papers in his article, “In Defense of Teaching (and Grading) the Long Research Paper.”
But, let me be clear. This benefit only comes when the research paper is taught — not merely assigned. I agree that long research paper assignments can be pointless if the guidance to students is that they do some research on some topic related to the course and turn in a long paper at the end of the semester.
In the Essentials class at Classical Conversations, we purposely assign writing assignments in a logical order that leads up to the research paper assignment. Then we spend several weeks working on the skills for the research paper, guiding and mentoring for the parents and the students along the way. By the end of the course, the children, ages 9-11 years old, are able to do intentional research on chosen topics, outline their paper, and then finish their rough draft.
As I sat down to work on my research paper, I took myself through the same steps I teach. I got out my Key Word Outline worksheets, picked my three main topics, came up with a main theme, and started outlining. WOW. Why didn’t I have this in school? Why weren’t they teaching it this way? I quickly outlined my topics, realized I needed to change one of the topics, and began writing a rough draft.
From there I used all my skills at adding ‘dress-ups and openers’ to really make my research paper stand out! So easy!
I say all this to encourage you! I’m writing a paper using the SAME method that I’m teaching to 9-12 year olds. They are able to do the same thing that I’m doing and I can do what they are doing. It’s beautiful. 🙂
If you have children under the age of 9, don’t worry if you aren’t teaching formal writing yet. Writing is a dialectic stage skill and can wait until the child is around the age of 9-10. Believe me, once they get there, they will zoom forward in their writing abilities if you teach using something like IEW to give them the skills and tools they need to simplify the process.
Watch for updates about our Faces of History night next Friday!!