Sunday, March 2, 2014

Patricia Bath: The Amazing Ophthalmologist Who Invented a Laser that Removes Cataracts

Will wrote just a big ole' research paper last week! She had a choice of five African-American inventors, and she finally settled on Patricia Bath. I was pleased about her choice for two big reasons:

  1. Bath is female, and 
  2. Bath is still alive.
The second part was especially fortuitous, because Will found, through Discovery Education Streaming, an actual interview with Bath; so cool when history literally comes alive! Will also used the book Women Inventors Who Changed the World, and articles on Grolier and World Book Online (you can check out my Educational Links page for the best scholastic search engines). 

To put together this bigger research paper, I taught Will about outlines, then had her dictate her outline to me while I played scribe. I wanted to model how it *is* possible to handwrite long passages without throwing a fit, and also show her a couple of little tricks for when you inevitably realize that you want to include something else some place in your outline, but you're out of room. The guidelines for the essay contest that prompted this research paper included some topics that each essay should cover, so figuring out to integrate these into the essay made for another excellent lesson (and one that I wish all my former freshman comp students had mastered before they showed up to my classes):

I wrote down Will's words verbatim as she dictated her outline (both children have already learned quite well that one must never simply repeat another author's exact words and phrasing in their own work, so that's never a problem), but I did often, after she had reported a fact, prompt her to now explain the importance or relevance of this fact, or to put it into the context of her overall report. At this point, I'm privileging acquiring that skill OVER acquiring the skill of creating a flow of logic throughout the paper, so it's okay to me that some of her points are off-topic--as long as they're original thoughts about the facts, they're acceptable.

If you've written a great outline, then most of your work for the report is already done--you simply have to write your outline in essay form, creating good connections and filling in any gaps that you now see. I was surprised that Will often wanted to delete most of the interesting aspects of her authorial voice at this time, which would have turned her essay into something very dull and dry; I discouraged her where I could, but since it's her paper, ultimately they were her choices to make, and she did choose to delete some of her witty, humorous observations--ah, well...

After the essay was finished, I let it sit for a day, then printed it and gave it to Will to read and edit. She found a couple of punctuation errors (oops!) that she wanted to correct, so we did so, then printed the essay again and gave it to Will to read and edit. I believe that we did this twice before Will finally had a totally clean copy with nothing further that she wanted to edit. THAT'S the essay that gets read in triumph:

Whew! These are not everyday parts of school, these multi-page research reports, but they're definitely regular parts--by junior high, I want the kid to be so accustomed to writing them that she can just whip them out like a grad schooler, no biggie.

P.S. If you're interested in African-American inventors, here are some other library materials on that topic that we enjoyed:

3 comments:

Tina said...

Great Job Willow!

Julie, will you be my teacher? I will be using this information in my future college classes. Thanks!

julie said...

Awww, you! I have to admit that efficient and effective non-fiction writing is a MAJOR skill for me, the once-and-future college writing instructor.

Tina said...

I have discovered over time that my brain simply HATES to analyse what it reads. It's a running joke between me and the hubby whenever he asks me what the book I am reading is about. Takes me FOREVER to summarize it for him. He'd be better off just reading it himself. I have happily come to terms with the fact that my brain just doesn't function that way and that my talents lie elsewhere.

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