21 September 2010

How to write an elementary/early middle school level research paper

So I discovered that I'm really not pleased with any of the history curriculum I have tried to date. Either they are too, I hate to say 'fundamental' but that is the word that comes to mind, or they are too secular. We consider ourselves pretty conservative, too conservative if you ask our church, but some things just bother me because they don't make sense. I can't teach things that don't make sense. Nothing really had that happy medium I was looking for and all of them seemed to have some type of agenda. I did find Story of the World, but it seems to be missing so much so I use it to supplement what we do. I have made my own curriculum pulling from SotW,, AEP Complete Book of World History, and Evan-Moor History Pockets combined with research on Encyclopedia Britannica, Brainpop, and various documentaries I've rented from the library.

How do you bring all of this together, though? Well, we do research reports at the end of every subject to ensure that Joshua really understands what we've gone over.  I spend 1-6 weeks on each subject of world history. Our shortest was the first people and our longest will probably be Greece and Rome. This method, which I discovered on a forum and tweaked for our own use, will work for ANY subject. You can do this with science, writing, reading, ANYTHING. It just happens to be eminently well-suited for history.

How to get started:

Take your main subject and divide it with them into several sub-topics. We recently did a research report on Mesopotamia. So we had 'Mesopotamia' as the main topic and there were 8 sub-topics since we worked on this for a couple of weeks. We had geography, agriculture, tools, inventions, daily life, religion, cuneiform, and achievements.

We kept some of the whiteboard that was left when my husband made our wall sized whiteboard and cut it into 12'x12' squares we call 'lapboards'. These are used instead of scratch paper for math and other small projects that usually waste paper. You can use anything, though. A piece of spare poster board, construction paper, anything!

Take the lapboard or whatever you're using and divide it into columns based on how many sub-topics you have. We had 8 with this so there were 8 columns with the sub-topic at the top of each one. Give them a stack of post-it notes or scratch paper squares and tape. Guide them to the research materials, show them the basics, and then let loose.

I advised my son to write 1 fact on each post-it note and each sub-topic needed 4-5 facts. I told him to write complete sentences on each note (not just 'hard work' or 'they farmed') and on the back to write his source (, Story of the World, etc.). It took him a week to get it all together from various places, about 3 days of actually researching the topic.

We worked together during this time to write a lead sentence and put it on the back of the board so we wouldn't lose it. Then came time to put things together on paper. Work with them to put it all together into one paper. I have a paper template I printed up, and a place to put their sources at the end. You can see it copied below so feel free to use it. I took the lines out for each paragraph because they didn't translate well to this page, but feel free to copy into notepad or word and add them yourself.

Hope this helps everyone!

Mrs. Yoder

Elementary Research Report

Title: ______________________
Author: ____________________
Subject: ____________________
Date: _________

Lead Sentence:

1st Paragraph:

2nd  Paragraph:

3rd  Paragraph:

4th  Paragraph:

5th  Paragraph:

6th  Paragraph:

7th  Paragraph:

8th  Paragraph:

Closing sentence: