Reaseach is like Putting together a Puzzle

When it comes to teaching a student anything, it is much easier if you can do something that catches their interest. If they are curious enough to want to know about something, they are ready to hear the information.

In general people enjoy mysteries. They want to know the secret, find out who did it, and put the puzzle together. When research is more of a game, there may be some renewed interest in getting it right. So perhaps the introduction to research should be a game where they are many clues and one right answer. It is sort of like presenting a maze. In fact, it may be a great idea to do these kinds of activities for a week before the word research is introduced.

Give an entire class assignment. For example who said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  When did this person say it? What were they talking about. Pull 5 students aside and ask them to make up their answers, but make them very believable. Give one student some research information, which is incorrect, and can seem to be true on line. You know that at least six versions will be presented. The purpose of the exercise is to introduce how to find credible sources.

Citing sources needs to be done correctly, but it is not fun to teach. Perhaps the best way to accomplish this task is to provide the students with a number acceptable ways to cite information. Then practice with worksheets that have the students select the correct way of sighting information. Everyone wants credit for the work they have done, but most students find the details boring. Knowing why it is done a certain way is less important than knowing how to do it right.

Every treasure hunt comes with a great prize. As students are learning to research and decipher fact from fiction in their research, there should be a great prize. A good grade on a paper is alright, but not a fantastic prize. Work together with your students to come up with a community prize. Give them class time to check each others research and citing. With a team effort and the right reward, perhaps everyone in a class can feel good about this project.

Keep the early assignments short and manageable. Once the students have some success, that big term paper may not look so daunting. They have prepared, know what they are doing and after working together should be able to pull one off on their own.

It’s called happy teaching and it works.