Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Holocaust Inquiry Project

The eighth grade ELA classes spent five days in the library working on a Holocaust inquiry project.  Mr. Colaiacovo and Mrs. Wood were looking for new ways to approach learning about the Holocaust.  Inquiry work seemed to do the trick!  Overall, we were very impressed by the high level of student engagement and the quality of the finished products.

On the first day of their visit, we introduced the project to the students.  They would be working in groups of four or five students.  Their group needed to decide on a Holocaust topic to research and then create a poster presentation centered upon their topic.  Some of the topics the groups chose to research included Anne Frank, Kindertransport, concentration camps, Adolf Hitler, the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and symbols of the Holocaust.  Once all groups decided on the topics they were interested in researching, students then spent time individually brainstorming some potential questions they were interested in researching.

Eighth grade students brainstorm potential research questions.

The brainstorming step is definitely one of the most important steps of the whole project.  An exciting aspect of inquiry research is that students are able to answer questions that are of interest to them personally.  Generating your own questions and finding the answers is empowering and engaging for students!  Ample time was spent during the brainstorming step in order for students to think about what they would like to learn through research.

The next steps in the inquiry process required student groups to sort through their questions in order to focus on 8-10 manageable questions for research.  Students eliminated or rewrote opinion-based questions.  They also reworked questions that could be answered with a simple yes or no answer.  The question elimination process involved teamwork, sorting, compromise, and critical thinking skills.

Student groups looked through all potential research questions prior to picking 8-10 to use for research.

After the groups were satisfied with the questions chosen for research, they transferred the questions to an organizer.  Students chose two questions apiece that they would be personally responsible for researching.

An example of a finished question sheet.

Once students had decided on their research questions, they received a brief introduction to the library resources available to assist with their research.  These eighth grade students have been using the library for research since fifth grade.  It was wonderful to see that they were well-acquainted with the sources to be used for research!  Students documented their sources by using MLA-formatted note sheets.

Students used a variety of library books to assist with research.
A Symbaloo organizer on the library website pointed students in the direction of reliable websites for research.
Online databases, such as Britannica, provided a wealth of information.
Students used MLA-formatted Note Sheets to keep track of their sources.
Information gathered through research was recorded in workbooks.

The entire research process took approximately one and a half class periods.  Some students wisely chose to bring their research home for homework.  This gave students the whole class period on Friday, May 13th to create their posters and work on their presentations.

Group members worked together to create posters centered around their topic.

Students made sure to give credit to their image sources.
A completed poster about Anne Frank.

The posters demonstrated creativity and organization.

Now that students had completed their posters, the final step for the project was to present their information.  Although some students expressed their apprehension about presenting publicly, the presentations were extremely well done!  The ability to answer questions that students were personally curious about led to greater investment in the research process.  The majority of groups were not simply reading off of their poster.  Instead, students demonstrated a deep knowledge of their topic and were even able to answer questions from the audience.

A group presents their findings about concentration camps.
Students present about Auschwitz while classmates take notes.

While the groups were presenting, students were asked to take notes on the presentation.  These notes will help to build background knowledge about topics pertaining to the Holocaust.  Holocaust topics will be discussed more in-depth in both ELA and Social Studies classes this year.  Eighth grade students participating in the Washington, DC field trip will even have the opportunity to further their knowledge by visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

At the conclusion of this project, students completed a reflection about their own participation in the inquiry process.  This will help the instructors decide what components of the project need to be changed for next year's group of students.  We could not be more proud of the hard work done by the eighth grade ELA students!  They achieved great things in just five short days.

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