Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sixth Grade Rome Inquiry

The sixth grade social studies students in Ms. Schaper, Mrs. Lindsley, and Mr. Guzzetta's classes spent time studying many ancient cultures this year.  With the end of the school year approaching, the students had the opportunity to use what they had learned in social studies all year long in order to teach their peers about ancient Rome.  This learning experience was facilitated through the use of the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) as outlined by the Right Question Institute.  Earlier this year, the sixth grade students in Mrs. B. Smith's science class used QFT as the basis for their project about planets.

For an entire week, all three teachers brought their classes to the library to work on their projects.  This made for some busy periods, but the students did a great job focusing on what needed to be done!

The classes were divided into small groups.  Each group was given a topic about ancient Rome, such as architecture, daily life, religion, or the empire.  Using their topics as a focus, students individually brainstormed potential questions about their topic.

Students brainstormed potential questions for research.

Each group was given a specific area of focus.

Next, the students worked together in groups in order to eliminate questions that could not be answered through research (such as opinion questions) and questions that were duplicates.  This step helped to narrow down the questions that students would later choose to guide their research.

During this step, the elements of a good research question were discussed in detail.  Not only did the question need to pertain to the topic, it also needed to be multi-layered in order to make for interesting research.

Group members shared the questions they generated.

Student groups discussed their potential research questions.

Groups were directed to select 6-8 questions to guide their research.  Some of the questions initially generated through their research were combined, which yielded "meatier" questions for research. 

Students used different strategies to organize their questions.

Similar questions were grouped together, yielding multi-layered research questions.

Once the questions were selected, students then decided which group member would be responsible for finding the answer to each question.  Questions were transferred to a graphic organizer, which made it easy for students to keep track of their research and sources used.

Questions were transferred to a list and to graphic organizers designed for research.

Prior to researching, students received a refresher on research techniques and library resources.  Students used books, online databases, and websites to answer their questions about Rome.  Helpful websites were organized in a Symbaloo matrix for ease of use.

Symbaloo website matrix for research.

The books were a great choice for research.

The Britannica database provided a wealth of information!

With the research component completed, students then had the opportunity to present their findings in a lesson to their classmates. Students prepared a PowerPoint (complete with a slide for citations!) and created an assessment for their peers.  Each student was graded through use of a presentation rubric.

The Rome project rubric.

Student groups presented while their peers took notes.

There were successes as well as areas for improvement concerning this project.  Students did an excellent job creating and improving their research questions.  They also did great work putting together their PowerPoint presentations, assessments, and citations.  We learned that presenting in front of a class can be very difficult and requires practice!  Also, students may want to challenge themselves to dig deeper into the research sources to glean additional details and interesting facts about their topic.  Overall, this was a positive lesson in Roman history as well as teamwork.

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