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Essays, articles, books on delaying writing instruction (making young kids write research papers)


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Where might I look for more arguments or research on the negatives of asking elementary or middle grade students to write  research papers?

 

SWB starts her introduction to Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals with a few pages explaining her position on the matter.  I also have access to Teach Your Child Successfully  by Ruth Beechick.

 

Does anyone else have a source they would recommend?  Or a source that persuasively argues for having younger students write research papers?  I know that many, many schools have adopted this practice.  I am curious if there is actually evidence based research that supports it.

 

I've been homeschooling my tribe of kids for quite a while, but placed two of the kids in a school setting this year.  At 5th and 6th grade (and also in 4th grade), they have been asked to write an APA research format paper on a topic of science with bibliography and footnotes as part of their science fair project.  Once they complete the testable hypothesis part of the project, they are also supposed to write an abstract summary of both the paper and the project. I don't find this developmentally appropriate.  I would like to find resources so that I can visit with the school about this, other than just expressing my common sense frustration about it.  

 

Thank you--

 

 

 

 

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This is just my wild and crazy opinion:

 

They cut most grammar and writing instruction out of schools, because the idea was "you become a good writer through practice"/"you learn to be a good writer just by reading"/"you learn to be a good writer by experimenting"/"what is a 'good' writer anyway?" and because this theory (as well as most progressive educational theories) work perfectly fine when done at lab schools and expensive private schools (and in plenty of homeschools) where kids have really high academic expectations and parents who will make sure that they meet those expectations.

 

Then it turned out that it didn't really work this way with a wider population.  And then Malcolm Gladwell started going on about 10,000 hours so it was decided that clearly the problem was just that the schools didn't require more writing.  So to get your 10,000 hours of writing research papers in, you now need to start in about 1st grade.

 

The best argument against it, and for more grammar composition instruction, and less "figure it out by being forced to do it a lot," that I've seen is the intro to the WWE instructor guide that I think you're talking about.  But I haven't searched extensively. 

 

(Also just my opinion, but I think upper elementary... which is 4th and 5th grade here... and definitely middle school... which is 6th grade here... is when kids should start doing this sort of thing, and the assignment you describe sounds age-appropriate to me personally.  I just think it's kind of absurd to have 1st graders doing 5-paragraph "research papers" with bibliographies, which I know get assigned in schools around here.)

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To be honest... I remember writing my first 100 word essay in, like, 2nd grade. I really enjoyed the accomplishment! My sister was in 5th grade when she had to do a full research paper about guinnea pigs in order to prove she could take care of one before she was allowed to buy one. In 6th grade we did our first science report for a forensics unit, recording the hypothesis, process followed and results. 

 

So, I don't particularly find the assignment inappropriate, personally. At 4th-6th grade a first exposure to the concept of research papers, their format and contents (I'm assuming they're going to mark it accordingly, as a first exposure, not expecting high school level output) seems about right to me.

 

I, unfortunately, don't have any articles either way. I hope someone else can help with that. 

 

 

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FWIW, my first research paper with a bibliography was in 3rd grade, done as part of a pull-out "gifted" program... we did a few of those in 3rd or 4th grade.  Meanwhile, book reports based on a single non-fiction book started in about 3rd grade... I remember doing one about Helen Keller.  Then I think in 5th grade we had to start doing reports with 3 sources... I remember doing one about Monet.  In elementary there were always very specific rules about the number of sources we had to use ("3 books, 3 encyclopedias, 3 magazines," or some sort of similar mix).  By junior high (then 7th and 8th grade) we were expected to write papers with as many resources as reasonably possible. 

 

I dunno, from a developmental point of view, this seems about right.  Do you think that kids should wait until high school to do this kind of research and writing?  I guess I don't really see that... I think they should wait until they're mature enough, and experienced enough a reader, to be able to properly identify the important information and until they're old enough to have the vocabulary to succinctly put things in their own words, but I think a kid in upper elementary school should be able to do that, even if it's not exactly American Book Award-worthy.  And I think that there's value in telling an upper elementary school kid who might be interested in science "this is how real scientists work, and now you're going to be a real scientist."  And if you're going to teach them how to do a bibliography, you may as well teach them the right way from the start... no point in having them make something up when it's easier to tell them the format and have them fill in the blanks.

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If anyone has helpful articles, book rec's, on either side of the issue, your suggestions of what to read would be so helpful.

 

But if there really is a dearth of research in this area, then I guess it goes to best arguments.

 

The common-sense arguments I've been considering against having young kids do research papers are the following:

 

A child can be made to do a complicated research paper, but it requires so much adult intervention that it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If anyone has helpful articles, book rec's, on either side of the issue, your suggestions of what to read would be so helpful.

 

But if there really is a dearth of research in this area, then I guess it goes to best arguments.

 

The common-sense arguments I've been considering against having young kids do research papers are the following:

 

A child can be made to do a complicated research paper, but it requires so much adult intervention that it  reduces student ownership and responsibility.

 

A child can write a poor paper, yet receive a good grade, then settles for the idea that she has written a good paper.  Consequently, she  does not progress in her abilities over the coming years. 

 

If a child can finish a research paper writing assignment, but went through high levels of stress, anxiety, worry, weeping to do so, then I think it is a bad idea to force children to do it.  

 

If students can first do formal research papers in high school and do them successfully, what is there to be gained by starting younger?

 

Does starting younger guarantee a stronger writer later on?

 

If current writers, including science research writers, managed to learn their craft without having to do a term paper in fourth grade, why do we think we will turn people into writers by forcing them into it at a young age?  

 

Just some thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

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If anyone has helpful articles, book rec's, on either side of the issue, your suggestions of what to read would be so helpful.

 

But if there really is a dearth of research in this area, then I guess it goes to best arguments.

 

The common-sense arguments I've been considering against having young kids do research papers are the following:

 

A child can be made to do a complicated research paper, but it requires so much adult intervention that it  reduces student ownership and responsibility.

 

A child can write a poor paper, yet receive a good grade, then settles for the idea that she has written a good paper.  Consequently, she  does not progress in her abilities over the coming years. 

 

If a child can finish a research paper writing assignment, but went through high levels of stress, anxiety, worry, weeping to do so, then I think it is a bad idea to force children to do it.  

 

If students can first do formal research papers in high school and do them successfully, what is there to be gained by starting younger?

 

Does starting younger guarantee a stronger writer later on?

 

If current writers, including science research writers managed to learn their craft without having to do a term paper in fourth grade, why do we think we will turn people into writers by forcing them into it at a young age?  

 

Just some thoughts.

^  I think every your of your questions are well worth asking, and your arguments against elementary students doing ridiculous research papers are valid.  At least in my world...;)   I have nothing but anecdotal evidence, but my evidence ( comparing my own children, who do more SWB's approach to friends/family who do more typical, b&m school sequence) supports your common sense arguments.  :)

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I've been trying to find books for "Presto! Get Your Fourth Graders to Write Research Papers," but I'm not finding that either.

 

I've also spent several days researching elementary school science fairs.  I can't find that the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) even has a position on that.  They have one e-book of compiled articles, some of which are 20 years old.  I've run across a few magazine articles here and there cautioning or decrying obligatory testable hypothesis science fairs for children, but it's mainly opinion.  

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I've come across one meta-analysis of types of writing instruction, which showed an effect of different types of teaching, but doesn't mention anything about developmental readiness.

 

OT, but the meta-analysis said there was no effect of teaching grammar :)

 

Man, I like grammar.  

 

But after schooling six kids and seeing the results, (thus running my own meta-analysis) I am tempted to agree.  

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No help with essays etc, but it's insane, this making kids write so early

 

Totally inappropriate - and I was a writer, who wrote 1000 word stories for fun when I was 6, I live with a writer and I have two natural writers, who wrote plays, poetry and essays for fun also - so I have a clue about writing.

 

Second graders should still be exploring the world, not packaging it up in research reports - unless that rocks their boat, in which case, sure.

 

Second graders need to be listening to and reading good writing, discussing good writing. They need to be working on the mechanics of writing. That's it - absolutely sufficient.

 

 

I agree with this, but OP is talking about 5th and 6th graders.  I think she's going to have a hard time finding anything that says that it's developmentally inappropriate for 5th and 6th graders to write a simple research paper.  Even the neoclassical trivium (WTM style) is all about how 5th grade is the start of the logic phase, where kids are supposed to be able to critically read different sources, and put them together into a larger framework.  

 

I would like to know more about why OP thinks otherwise, though.  I think that there's "too much too soon" in many subject areas at most schools, but I have to say that 5th and 6th graders writing simple research papers as part of a science fair project doesn't phase me at all.  I'd like to know more about why OP thinks this isn't appropriate, and when she thinks that it's more appropriate to start.

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Where might I look for more arguments or research on the negatives of asking elementary or middle grade students to write  research papers?

 

SWB starts her introduction to Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals with a few pages explaining her position on the matter.  I also have access to Teach Your Child Successfully  by Ruth Beechick.

 

Does anyone else have a source they would recommend?  Or a source that persuasively argues for having younger students write research papers?  I know that many, many schools have adopted this practice.  I am curious if there is actually evidence based research that supports it.

 

I've been homeschooling my tribe of kids for quite a while, but placed two of the kids in a school setting this year.  At 5th and 6th grade (and also in 4th grade), they have been asked to write an APA research format paper on a topic of science with bibliography and footnotes as part of their science fair project.  Once they complete the testable hypothesis part of the project, they are also supposed to write an abstract summary of both the paper and the project. I don't find this developmentally appropriate.  I would like to find resources so that I can visit with the school about this, other than just expressing my common sense frustration about it.  

 

Thank you--

 

I'm not convinced that requiring children to write reports like that at young ages actually improves their writing abilities. I just don't.

 

I think the assignments your dc had to do were *so* not developmentally appropriate. I think expressing your common-sense frustration is enough, because I'm pretty sure that you could bring a boatload of evidence supporting your opinion and you would still be patted on the head and sent away.

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No help with essays etc, but it's insane, this making kids write so early

 

Totally inappropriate - and I was a writer, who wrote 1000 word stories for fun when I was 6, I live with a writer and I have two natural writers, who wrote plays, poetry and essays for fun also - so I have a clue about writing.

 

Second graders should still be exploring the world, not packaging it up in research reports - unless that rocks their boat, in which case, sure.

 

Second graders need to be listening to and reading good writing, discussing good writing. They need to be working on the mechanics of writing. That's it - absolutely sufficient.

 

:iagree: :iagree: :iagree:

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As far as APA style papers go, they are hard. I'm a reasonably smart person, with an ability to put words together, and learning APA style has been a challenge for me. I cannot see it as appropriate for 6th grade. 

 

:iagree:

 

I agree with this, but OP is talking about 5th and 6th graders.  I think she's going to have a hard time finding anything that says that it's developmentally inappropriate for 5th and 6th graders to write a simple research paper.  Even the neoclassical trivium (WTM style) is all about how 5th grade is the start of the logic phase, where kids are supposed to be able to critically read different sources, and put them together into a larger framework.  

 

I would like to know more about why OP thinks otherwise, though.  I think that there's "too much too soon" in many subject areas at most schools, but I have to say that 5th and 6th graders writing simple research papers as part of a science fair project doesn't phase me at all.  I'd like to know more about why OP thinks this isn't appropriate, and when she thinks that it's more appropriate to start.

 

APA style with bibliography, footnotes, and abstract is not a simple research paper. I'm in grad school, in the middle of writing APA style research, and will attest that even other adults in my class have trouble with this. That writing assignment is not appropriate for 5th and 6th grade.

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5th grade doesn't seem like it is too early to start research papers. My 4th grade class has to do a couple of "research" papers this year, but I focus way more on the research and general writing than having the follow any specific style.

 

My DSs school has the kids use MLA style, but the teachers are not sticklers about the "style" when grading.

Isn't APA style the standard for scientific research? If so, then it does not surprise me that the school requires that style for science fair projects. It sounds a bit like the science focused charter school that my kids attended in Texas. All the students 4 th grade and up are required to do a formal science project with a research paper. That is one on the costs of attending that particular school.

 

Also, I have found that Microsoft word makes it pretty easy to follow a style of research. There is a place to add sources and specify the style to be used. Then you just tell it to create the footnotes and bibliography or works cited page.

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I do think that 4th, 5th and 6th grade is too young for a research paper.  My reasoning is that I don't see that their minds are able to easily synthesize info from multiple sources and put it together into a cohesive whole.  

 

I would think it was appropriate for a 5th or 6th grader to read a book or article on a science subject and make a short summary.

 

 

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I don't think I can log in to see it.  Do you have a title for the article?  Maybe I can find it at my library on ERIC

 

Hope you don't mind the copy-and-paste of the citations. I'm currently perusing more recent research, but I really have to get going on my own. I have one week left of grad school! Yay, me!

 

Thompson, J. T. (1995). Writing the narrative-style research report in elementary school. Childhood Education, 71(4), 203. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/210392745?accountid=10248

 

Integrating writing and social studies: Alternatives to the. (1992). Social Education, 56(7), 382. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/210618874?accountid=10248

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Here's some more. Some of it is APA-formatted, btw. (I'm just copying/pasting, not checking though.) I'm also not reading these, this is a precursory search result in my school library. (Ok, maybe I skimmed a little because it's interesting.) If you have trouble finding them, let me know.

 

Cave, A. (2010). Learning how to become a writer in elementary school: A review of the literature from cognitive, social cognitive, developmental and sociocultural perspectives. I-Manager's Journal on Educational Psychology, 3(4), 1-13. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1473907333?accountid=10248

 

Research-Based Writing Practices and the Common Core: Meta-analysis and Meta-synthesis

 
Steve Graham, Karen R. Harris, and Tanya Santangelo
The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 115, No. 4 (June 2015), pp. 498-522

 

This is an interesting one in which a teacher did research with his students, but it was a very active, hands-on process he engaged the students in. It doesn't say what grade he did this with, but author blurb at the end says he's  3rd grade teacher:

Krustchinsky, R., Newman, J., Nguyen, K.-T., & Vanek, K. (2009, January). An o-"fish"-ial research project: students develop reading, writing, research, and presentation skills in this creative study of local marine life. Science and Children, 46(5), 40. Retrieved from http://cupdx.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.cupdx.idm.oclc.org/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA192259673&v=2.1&u=conu&it=r&p=AONE&asid=aa98e6065a1581243b68f685d3a951b5

 

Teaching Writing to Elementary Students in Grades 4–6: A National Survey
By Jennifer Gilbert and Steve Graham
The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 110, No. 4 (June 2010), pp. 494-518
Article DOI: 10.1086/651193
 
 

 

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I think a sixth grader should be able to write a paper for the science fair with some footnotes and bibliography. Fourth grade seems early, but are the standards really exactly the same for the fourth graders?

 

Maybe APA format is just referring to the way they want the works cited in the bibliography.

 

Without more Information on how much teaching is given, how long the paper is expected to be, what the timeline given is, and generally what these papers look like, it would be harder to say how appropriate it is IMO.

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Using words such as "delaying" assumes that the current practice is the historical norm.  

 

Turning it around, here are some questions that might be worth discussing.   (After a lot of reading, I have partial answers to some of these, but much is still unclear.)

 

 

Who came up with the idea of having children write "research papers" as a method of school pedagogy? 

 

When was this type of work added to the secondary curriculum in the US? 

 

When was it added to the elementary curriculum?  

 

What was the rationale for these choices at the time?   

 

Has this approach been found to result in graduates with stronger thinking and writing skills?  

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Where might I look for more arguments or research on the negatives of asking elementary or middle grade students to write  research papers?

 

SWB starts her introduction to Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals with a few pages explaining her position on the matter.  I also have access to Teach Your Child Successfully  by Ruth Beechick.

 

Does anyone else have a source they would recommend?  Or a source that persuasively argues for having younger students write research papers?  I know that many, many schools have adopted this practice.  I am curious if there is actually evidence based research that supports it.

 

I've been homeschooling my tribe of kids for quite a while, but placed two of the kids in a school setting this year.  At 5th and 6th grade (and also in 4th grade), they have been asked to write an APA research format paper on a topic of science with bibliography and footnotes as part of their science fair project.  Once they complete the testable hypothesis part of the project, they are also supposed to write an abstract summary of both the paper and the project. I don't find this developmentally appropriate.  I would like to find resources so that I can visit with the school about this, other than just expressing my common sense frustration about it.  

 

Thank you--

I'm being lazy here and not reading the whole thread, sorry.  We did National History Day (which goes as low as 4th gr)  a couple years ago, and they have a similar process, where the students make annotated bibliographies for their project, no matter what category they choose (documentary, research paper, display, etc.).  Basically all the project categories are going to involve significant writing.  

 

I think the thing to remember is that, when a student is doing a project like that, he's ENGAGED.  This is not a project where the teacher told the whole class to go write a research paper and your little 9 yo sat there crying that she didn't care and didn't know what to write about.  This is something they're already *invested* in, already have their brains wrapped around, and maybe have something they want to say.  I also expect that the teacher will provide some instruction in structure or expect parents to back them up.  

 

In the sense that the child is already invested and has something to say, it's actually a really good project.  Instead of getting stuck on what the genre is, help your student make the leap.  It's really just an extended narration in that sense.  Yes it's a stretch, but a stretch isn't BAD.  I think you'll find kids will perform at lots of different levels in a task like this.  It's a set-up that allows the highest end students to do more sophisticated work.  You're coming at it as an adult, who maybe when to college, and thinking oh my goodness it has to be like *this*.  But really, the lower students are probably going to go in and pick up some easy books from the juvenile section, read, and slap something out.  Students with higher reading levels might stretch themselves and pull in adult level books, etc.  

 

If you don't think of it in terms of what you wrote in school and switch to thinking of it in terms of what that age group is likely to do, it *can* be a lot of fun.  After all, SWB wrote WWS, targeted supposedly at 5th graders, and it does THAT VERY THING, looking at multiple sources and writing a single project.  I don't see the issue.  If they're engaged, they choose the topic, they use materials they're comfortable with (and are not pushed), and they have something to say AND ENOUGH SUPPORT FOR ORGANIZATION AND GETTING THEIR THOUGHTS OUT there isn't an issue.

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Also, if you look at regional science fairs for grades 6-12, they require an abstract and paper (I do not know about APA specifically being required for all of them but it is for some, and I am sure some uniformity of style is expected).

 

So it is not surprising that a sixth grader would be expected to meet that standard since that would be an eventual

next step for a school science fair winner. .

 

I still don't get why APA is a big deal vs. MLA or Chicago or some other format. For a middle school paper, it's just a style for writing down your sources, with all the same information as any other style included, just in a different order. These kids are using library books and science encyclopedias, maybe an online source or two, not pages and pages of scientific journal articles. I am sure they also are not in most cases formatting extensive charts and graphs in their fifth and sixth grade papers, not huge numbers of footnotes or raw research data as in a college paper.

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You're coming at it as an adult, who maybe when to college, and thinking oh my goodness it has to be like *this*.  But really, the lower students are probably going to go in and pick up some easy books from the juvenile section, read, and slap something out.  Students with higher reading levels might stretch themselves and pull in adult level books, etc.  

This is pretty much my objection to the whole thing.  In the great majority of cases I've seen, it teaches students to "slap out" a mediocre and juvenile product to meet external standards, based on whatever materials were easy to find.   I can't see how making children practice being poor researchers and writers -- for years on end -- is supposed to prepare them to become good researchers and writers.  :huh:

 

And the above holds true regardless of reading ability.  The books they're working with might be more advanced, but the rest of the process is likely to be pretty much the same.   

 

The fact is, babies and children are doing individual research, and communicating about their findings, from infancy.  It's how they learn about the world.  If anything, my sense is that the practice of assigning schoolwork that's beyond their maturity level is likely to cause harm to that part of them.  They might learn a few academic skills, but it's much more likely that they're going to be learning coping strategies such as "choose an easy subject," "let mommy do the parts I can't," and especially, "don't be concerned if the work is badly done, because it doesn't really matter anyway."   

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I don't think a parent will be able to talk a school out of anything.

It's too much a one person against a large bureaucracy that claims expertise to be anything but a Don Quixote type exercise.

I would waste my time trying.  Instead, I would homeschool.  Oh wait, I did.   :)

 

I'm hopeful.  I don't see the school making a change for this year, but I see an opportunity to open a dialogue.  I know at least one of the teachers would likely agree with the idea that the research format isn't appropriate. 

 

If out out of this process of reading, learning and writing on the matter I can come to effectively articulate the value of a common sense approach, even without persuading other educators at the school, I don't think I'm just tilting at windmills.  It will help me stay on a better track for educating the 5 children I have at home.  

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 Indeed.   My 6th grader wrote a very poorly thought out paper with perfect format and received an A.

 

 

 

 

This is pretty much my objection to the whole thing.  In the great majority of cases I've seen, it teaches students to "slap out" a mediocre and juvenile product to meet external standards, based on whatever materials were easy to find.   I can't see how making children practice being poor researchers and writers -- for years on end -- is supposed to prepare them to become good researchers and writers.  

 

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If you don't think of it in terms of what you wrote in school and switch to thinking of it in terms of what that age group is likely to do, it *can* be a lot of fun.  After all, SWB wrote WWS, targeted supposedly at 5th graders, and it does THAT VERY THING, looking at multiple sources and writing a single project.  I don't see the issue.  If they're engaged, they choose the topic, they use materials they're comfortable with (and are not pushed), and they have something to say AND ENOUGH SUPPORT FOR ORGANIZATION AND GETTING THEIR THOUGHTS OUT there isn't an issue.

 

It is partly out of my experience in using WWS to teach my two oldest children that I disagree with asking 4th, 5th and 6th graders to write formal research papers in APA format with footnotes and a bibliography.

 

One of my primary objections is that doing so takes too much "support" from the adult.  I think it takes so much "support" that the papers actually cannot get written by the average 4th, 5th, or 6th grader without adult intervention.  

 

From Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals, pg. 3

 

"It's not that they don't write.  In fact, in an effort to solve the problem of poor writing skills, schools are giving longer and more complex assignments to younger and younger children.  The theory is that the more writing children do, the better they'll get at it; as one proponent of it recently told me, 'Give the children high-interest assignments and have them write, write, write and revise, revise, revise.'  FIrst and second graders are told to write journal entries; third and fourth graders are assigned book reports and essays.  Fifth and sixth graders are given research papers.

Meanwhile, writing skills continue to decline."

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"It's not that they don't write.  In fact, in an effort to solve the problem of poor writing skills, schools are giving longer and more complex assignments to younger and younger children.  The theory is that the more writing children do, the better they'll get at it; as one proponent of it recently told me, 'Give the children high-interest assignments and have them write, write, write and revise, revise, revise.'  FIrst and second graders are told to write journal entries; third and fourth graders are assigned book reports and essays.  Fifth and sixth graders are given research papers.

Meanwhile, writing skills continue to decline."

 

The bolded works very well for many children.

However, it needs to be accompanied by "read, read read" - because students need to read good writing so they have a model.

 

Chances are the writing skills decline because students do not read enough. Most voracious readers write just fine.

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Chances are the writing skills decline because students do not read enough. Most voracious readers write just fine.

 

Most, but not all. Some voracious readers don't write (or spell) well.

 

My latest fluent reader is the best writer so far. I credit oodles of audio books & the fact that she learns well by listening (vs. reading). She reads some, but not even 1/10 as much as my biggest reader.

 

A good amount of practice is what is helping the non-writer improve. (Note:  She's above the age listed in the OP.)

Sometimes, our kids don't fit into the 'most' box.

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I do think that 4th, 5th and 6th grade is too young for a research paper.  My reasoning is that I don't see that their minds are able to easily synthesize info from multiple sources and put it together into a cohesive whole.  

 

I would think it was appropriate for a 5th or 6th grader to read a book or article on a science subject and make a short summary.

 

Yes, this.

 

I remember when we started to do some "research" in elementary school.  We used real books, but the information we were looking for was mostly factual.  And when we wrote reports, they were fairly significantly scaffolded - the headings we had to include were laid out, we were told how many of such and such we needed to have, and so on.

 

We started writing real papers in grade 7.  For exams, we had foolscap and we had to do the outline on the left page and the essay on the right, if it was an exam.  For other essays we had to hand in the notes and get them back before we could begin to write.  We had bibliographies, but no citations until grade 9 or so. 

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The bolded works very well for many children.

However, it needs to be accompanied by "read, read read" - because students need to read good writing so they have a model.

 

Chances are the writing skills decline because students do not read enough. Most voracious readers write just fine.

 

Or being read to. Most of the dribble kids are asked to read in school are guided readers. Not the best literature out there. And, unless teachers and/or parents are really involved, students will continue to only read what's given to them in their "level." I think a practice of reading aloud to the kids in the classroom will go much further.

 

Most, but not all. Some voracious readers don't write (or spell) well.

 

My latest fluent reader is the best writer so far. I credit oodles of audio books & the fact that she learns well by listening (vs. reading). She reads some, but not even 1/10 as much as my biggest reader.

 

A good amount of practice is what is helping the non-writer improve. (Note:  She's above the age listed in the OP.)

Sometimes, our kids don't fit into the 'most' box.

 

:iagree:  Especially at the younger ages, receptive language will be much higher than expressive, which is why reading aloud is so important. But those on this board already know this.

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Having elementary school children do library research seems to have been pretty much unheard of before 1920, but it had become the norm by 1940.  I don't know whether or not they put much emphasis on citations at that time.  They certainly did by the 1980s in our system, even if not in Bluegoat's.   I remember my 8th grade teacher going on about how we all needed to learn MLA style, because the Chicago style that had been drummed into us in earlier grades was "outdated."  (And by the time I got to university, the version of MLA that we'd learned in that class was somewhat outdated again...)

 

When I started thinking about this shift in emphasis, I used to wonder if it might be part of a deliberate plan to waste time and dumb us all down.   Now I think it's more likely just a racket to get libraries, both school & public, to spend huge amounts of money on children's non-fiction books.  If you think about it, these books need to cover every subject the children are likely to write about, with enough choices that they can go through the motions of using multiple sources.  For many subjects, the materials become out of date and have to be replaced every five years or so.   And the libraries are often expected to have them at more than one reading level, for primary and middle grades. 

 

Then compare this to the cost of older forms of elementary school composition, such as writing letters to friends and family, or describing real-life scenes, or expanding on famous quotations or proverbs, or retelling events from literature or history.  Not much room for profit there.   How can we build the economy if they're only buying pencils and notebooks, and a few classic books that will last for years?   Better get to work on fixing that!  

 

Going along with this, we see the specialization of tasks that used to be done by ordinary parents and teachers, such as choosing books ("school librarian"), and telling young children about the world in ways suited to their age ("children's non-fiction author").

 

I agree with those who say that this is all so entrenched in the schools today, it's almost beyond questioning by anyone, let alone a parent.   But it's still worth thinking about.  Maybe the OP should have her child write a paper about it.  :laugh:

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Or being read to. Most of the dribble kids are asked to read in school are guided readers. Not the best literature out there. And, unless teachers and/or parents are really involved, students will continue to only read what's given to them in their "level." I think a practice of reading aloud to the kids in the classroom will go much further.

 

 

:iagree:  Especially at the younger ages, receptive language will be much higher than expressive, which is why reading aloud is so important. But those on this board already know this.

 

Wow, the posts by this woman are awesome.  She ought to be an early childhood educator or something. ;)

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Most, but not all. Some voracious readers don't write (or spell) well.

 

My latest fluent reader is the best writer so far. I credit oodles of audio books & the fact that she learns well by listening (vs. reading). She reads some, but not even 1/10 as much as my biggest reader.

 

A good amount of practice is what is helping the non-writer improve. (Note:  She's above the age listed in the OP.)

Sometimes, our kids don't fit into the 'most' box.

And then there is DD.  Outstanding composer of text and poetry, but couldn't spell at all until around middle school.

 

Ironically, it was learning German that made her finally start paying attention to spelling.  I pointed out that she spelled perfectly in German, and that gave her the confidence to start learning to spell in English, which I think she had decided she was incapable of doing.

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Write a short summary of a scientific process: photosynthesis

 

  1. Select a book or article
  2. Read this short book or article
  3. Outline the major points in your own words
  4. Use your outline to write a paragraph or paragraphs
  5. Reread and Edit

 

In order for a student to do this assignment, she needs to know how to read, how to pick out main points and details, how to reform those points into her own words, how to handwrite or type out the information, how to form those ideas into a sensible whole in her own words, how to use a modicum of decent grammar and spelling, how to reread to catch errors.

 

Write an APA formatted research paper on photosynthesis with footnotes and a bibliography using at least 3 sources

 

  1. Select your sources
  2. Read your sources
  3. Take notes on your sources in your own words; keep all that info neat and orderly with notes showing pages where information was located
  4. Think about what you want to say
  5. Write an outline about what you want to say
  6. Use your outline to write (type)
  7. Look up correct format or use a format generator on a computer
  8. Write (type)
  9. Add in footnotes as you type
  10. Keep writing (typing)
  11. Type your bibliography in correct format or learn how to use a generator
  12. Reread and Edit

 

The student needs enough time to select and read multiple sources, take notes on all, keep notes straight, form notes in her own words.

 

The student needs to know how to outline her ideas. She will also need to know how to put all the info from the different sources into a cohesive whole.

 

The student must know how to type.

 

The student must know or learn correct formatting.

 

The student must keep track of all citations and footnotes and create a bibliography.

 

The student must be able write with good grammar and spelling and be able to proofread.

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Citation styles are largely a thing of the past thanks to software (Zotero, RefWorks, EndNote, etc.). Once you have your bibliographic information stored (entered manually, in the worst case, but saved with a mouse click for many online sources), you type your paper in MS-Word and insert your citations as necessary. The references list at the end is a single click. Changing every instance to a different style (from MLA to APA or whatever) is a single click. Students do still need to know when to cite. I don't see knowing any one style as an equivalent to not using a calculator (or whatever analogy you'd like). The simple principle of citation is enough - you are supplying the details to make your citation findable by later readers.

 

What really matters is the process: picking a good topic and focusing, understanding how to find the good information sources and being able to discriminate between good and bad sources, how to pick out the appropriate bits, making the decision to either quote or paraphrase, and then organizing it so that it is persuasive. My analogy when teaching this is to imagine a trial lawyer presenting a case and calling up expert witnesses - who do you choose? what order do you put them in? The other thing is that kids need to see models - how are you supposed to do a good job of something if you've never seen what a good job looks like? I certainly wasn't reading "research articles" as a kid in grade school. I remember doing outlining work in elementary school, and I think that's appropriate for that level.

 

I took a history class as a junior in high school that required four research projects over the course of the year. This meant supervised library work, notecards to hand in (quotes as well as bibliography cards), and roundtable seminar discussions with 6 or 8 other kids (teacher floating between the 4 or 5 different simultaneous discussions). Only the last of these four projects was required to move into the next step for a full-fledged written paper (this was back in the days of typewriters). I think the same year I did a significant research paper in English class. Those were the main ones - certainly nothing of consequence back in elementary school.

 

My second master's degree required a lot of writing. I've also published two books and a bunch of scholarly articles. Writing is a big part of what I do on a daily basis. I never felt unprepared because I wasn't forced to do APA citations for a "research paper" in elementary school.

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When young children draw, the issue is not that they produce bad art, but that they practice a bad pencil grip. Likewise, if kids are going to do research papers, they need to learn to cite sources so that they don't develop the habit of plagiarizing. I would say that until students are able to understand why, when and how to cite a source, it's too early for them to do research papers.

 

When I taught 6th grade, nearly all students could do that successfully (MLA style) for a brief paper. Although I never assigned a research paper myself, a history teacher did, and I read them. Those who had a good understanding of their subject did a decent job of reporting the facts coherently, though few could say anything original about significance. Organizing chronologically was their best bet; few mastered topical organization with smooth transitions.

 

Bless their hearts, two of our weakest students plagiarized from the same source, lifting phrasing that stood out so badly as not theirs that I remember it to this day, and admitted when caught that they'd had no idea what they were reading. A well-designed assignment must have materials available on the right reading level.

 

Otherwise, though, I think doing the paper was good for sixth-graders, and they would probably have been able to do it in fifth. They got a lot of explicit instruction on the process, time to work on it in class, and suggestions for their work in progress if they wanted it. I think the trend of pushing it down farther is getting ridiculous, though.

 

 

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It is partly out of my experience in using WWS to teach my two oldest children that I disagree with asking 4th, 5th and 6th graders to write formal research papers in APA format with footnotes and a bibliography.

 

One of my primary objections is that doing so takes too much "support" from the adult.  I think it takes so much "support" that the papers actually cannot get written by the average 4th, 5th, or 6th grader without adult intervention.  

 

From Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals, pg. 3

 

"It's not that they don't write.  In fact, in an effort to solve the problem of poor writing skills, schools are giving longer and more complex assignments to younger and younger children.  The theory is that the more writing children do, the better they'll get at it; as one proponent of it recently told me, 'Give the children high-interest assignments and have them write, write, write and revise, revise, revise.'  FIrst and second graders are told to write journal entries; third and fourth graders are assigned book reports and essays.  Fifth and sixth graders are given research papers.

Meanwhile, writing skills continue to decline."

Ironically enough, there are good arguments *in favor* of more interaction, support, or even paired writing.  Vygotsky had theories on what he called the "zone of proximal development."  Gist of which is that, while americans make learning and skills all about what you can do *independently*, you could look at it as a *process* and degrees.  (what they can do with assistance, with less assistance, and finally independently)  That, to me, is a very comfortable idea for homeschoolers and how a lot of us naturally work, doing things with our kids and decreasing support till they can do the task independently.

 

I'm NOT saying I'm in favor of throwing overwhelming tasks at kids or making little kids function like they're in grad school.  However everyone knows those kids will need support to do good work.  Give them the support, help them learn how to organize.  It doesn't *have* to be developmentally inappropriate.  I think I would have made it optional, and hopefully they're expecting shorter work from lower students.  

 

Here's an article on it, just to give you some thought.  My dd has ADHD but is very bright, so you have this disparity between her ability to think and her ability to organize.  We use Inspiration software, mapping on whiteboards, etc. etc.  This is how I have worked with her and the kind of support she needs. 

Zone of proximal development - Wikipedia, the free ...

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Ironically enough, there are good arguments *in favor* of more interaction, support, or even paired writing.  Vygotsky had theories on what he called the "zone of proximal development."  Gist of which is that, while americans make learning and skills all about what you can do *independently*, you could look at it as a *process* and degrees.  (what they can do with assistance, with less assistance, and finally independently)  That, to me, is a very comfortable idea for homeschoolers and how a lot of us naturally work, doing things with our kids and decreasing support till they can do the task independently.

 

I'm NOT saying I'm in favor of throwing overwhelming tasks at kids or making little kids function like they're in grad school.  However everyone knows those kids will need support to do good work.  Give them the support, help them learn how to organize.  It doesn't *have* to be developmentally inappropriate.  I think I would have made it optional, and hopefully they're expecting shorter work from lower students.  

 

Here's an article on it, just to give you some thought.  My dd has ADHD but is very bright, so you have this disparity between her ability to think and her ability to organize.  We use Inspiration software, mapping on whiteboards, etc. etc.  This is how I have worked with her and the kind of support she needs. 

Zone of proximal development - Wikipedia, the free ...

 

I just read a book that makes several references to the zone of proximal development--Peter Gray's "Free To Learn."  I thought his explanations of how the modeling of older children can help younger children learn new things in their zone of proximal development was very good.  "Teach LIke A Champion" also has good info about "I/We/You" teaching technique.  

 

Several curriculums that I use are set up for good "I/We/You" support of the student--All About Spelling, WWE and WWS (which I have used in the past), FLL, Writing and Rhetoric from Classical Academic Press.

 

I'm all for supporting kids and giving them some scaffolding to learn a new task. 

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My DD wrote her first research paper this year and presented a talk about a month ago at the state Herpetological conference. Here's the process her mentors had her do. Hers was MLA, not APA, but I imagine it's similar.

 

1) read professional journals, and a lot of them. Talk and discuss and (dare I say) narrate the articles.

 

2) write summaries of a single article with citations, for a specific audience (usually "kids your age" or "science teachers" for DD.) Most were published on DD's blog. A few were published locally, mostly for homeschoolers.

 

3) write articles using multiple sources/citations, in a style similar to Scientific American or National Geographic. These often involved taking one side of an issue and drawing conclusions. Some of these ended up on her blog, and a few were revised multiple times and submitted to other blogs.

 

4) Write summaries of your own research at different points in the process as you do it, doing the background research as you go. Keep detailed records and an ongoing bibliography and citations list.

 

5)All this led to the actual paper, with a survey of research, her findings, and a conclusion, with a bibliography that was about as long as the paper.

 

6) write abstracts and summaries of X length, ranging from 1000 words to 200 words. This was the hardest part.

 

Did it work? Yes. At this point, she can cite and paraphrase quite easily. Her papers sail through turnitin.com with no matches other than direct quotes. Whether her paper will actually ever be published is another question (she needs more replicates in her research, and it's not a particularly unique question or model), but she learned a lot in the process. I don't think she's writing on a college level, let alone a professional one, but she is at least moving in that direction.

 

Having said that, I don't know how many 9-11 yr olds really need to go through this sort of process. In DD's case, she was already doing the research and wanted to present/publish-it was a goal she set for herself. She was highly motivated to learn the skills. She had already discovered open access journals and was reading them online, so when she was given access to the closed source ones, took advantage of it and was used to reading that kind of material. And she had excellent mentors, including a journal section editor and a writer for Scientific American who were willing to help, guide and critique. I also don't know that it's worth the time it has taken. What I described above was effectively a school subject by itself for over 2 years, all for one type of writing.

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Stellalarella, I've been reading this thread with interest.  I think you need to consider the classroom situation. There are a number of skills that need to be taught by the time a kid finishes highschool, some are very rote (like APA format), others are based in critical thinking (thesis driven writing with support).  What is easier to teach to younger kids? clearly rote material, especially if you are talking about a class of 30.  They may not be able to write a paragraph or form a thesis, but if they get the structure down cold at a young age, they can focus on the higher ordered thinking when they are older.  My guess is that teaching APA format is way easier than teaching thesis driven writing to young kids, but in the end they need to learn both. So the schools get the easier one out of the way.

 

In my homeschool, I am one on one with my kids, so my focus is on critical thinking and forming a well thought out argument with my 11 year olds.  APA can wait until my kids are 15, as it can be learned in about an hour. But schools are different animals with a 30 to 1 ratio, so you may have to accept a different order to teaching the skills.

 

Just something to think about,

 

Ruth in NZ

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Stellalarella, I've been reading this thread with interest.  I think you need to consider the classroom situation. There are a number of skills that need to be taught by the time a kid finishes highschool, some are very rote (like APA format), others are based in critical thinking (thesis driven writing with support).  What is easier to teach to younger kids? clearly rote material, especially if you are talking about a class of 30.  They may not be able to write a paragraph or form a thesis, but if they get the structure down cold at a young age, they can focus on the higher ordered thinking when they are older.  My guess is that teaching APA format is way easier than teaching thesis driven writing to young kids, but in the end they need to learn both. So the schools get the easier one out of the way.

 

In my homeschool, I am one on one with my kids, so my focus is on critical thinking and forming a well thought out argument with my 11 year olds.  APA can wait until my kids are 15, as it can be learned in about an hour. But schools are different animals with a 30 to 1 ratio, so you may have to accept a different order to teaching the skills.

 

Just something to think about,

 

Ruth in NZ

 

That is a perspective that I had not considered. Thank you for posting. 

 

 

 

I have reflected several times during the course of this project on how you do science fair projects with your children. 

 

My daughter is curious about birds and would have loved to have spent time reading about them.  She said she is particularly interested in learning how robins find earthworms in the ground.  

 

This obligatory, big-chunk-of-your-grade, parent-must-sign-contract science fair project required a testable hypothesis experiment and so while I know she could have found research on the bird topic utterly captivating,  I didn't feel like she, er, we, er I could pull off some testable hypothesis with wild birds (except for maybe something like counting birds at the bird feeder.)  Trying to get that idea off the ground seemed scary and hard to manage.  Maybe we could have done something along those lines and had a great adventure together, but we were also saddled with this picky research paper.  Also, the research paper had to be handed in before the beautifully organized testable hypothesis results poster.  The deadlines loomed like dark clouds of doom.  The school offered some limited classtime support for the paper, but everything else was to be managed, performed, decided at home.  

 

Her paper was wretchedly thought out and the teacher gave her a very nice grade.  Perhaps all that truly mattered was the format.

 

The other child I had in this school, after hearing about what was to be required, asked if he could stay home and only go back to school in mid-December once the science fair was over.  This was not your typical (and expected) 10 year old boy grumbling-over-a-bit-of-necessary-homework, for which I would have prescribed the usual response of go-and-do-your-work; this was the quiet pleading of a young boy who knew he was going under.  For that reason and because he had 1-3 hours of additional homework every night once he came home from school, we just went ahead and decided that we would bring him back home to homeschool.  He then VOLUNTEERED to read about plant cells and happily built a model. At home.  Something learned and a good time had by all.  

 

There is nothing about this science fair project, or writing this odious paper that is worth the price paid.  And the parents who are having to do this project, uh, I mean, support their students in this project, know the truth.  The fact that the parent is made to sign a contract is proof that this is a developmentally inappropriate project and that the school is relying on the parent to be the chief teacher, chief nag, chief organizer, chief doer of the science fair project and paper.

 

Having lived through 13 11 previous elementary school science fair projects, I really thought I had seen the height of what a school could demand of kids and families. In those pre-homeschooling years, we even brought home some prize winners.  Truly, those blue ribbons do seem to wipe away some of the anguish and strife of the experience. For about 10 seconds. 

 

This school just really takes it to a new level of ridiculousness.  It's justified because "everyone else is now doing it too." 

 

And do you know how many scientists this is going to inspire?  Probably not many  And no writers, either.  Just survivors.  But we don't know that because there is virtually no research on the benefits or detriments of forcing this on kids.

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It's a one hour learning process for very gifted people. For the rest of us peasants, learning to write a good APA paper takes time. 

hee hee,  I meant that writing out a bibliography in APA style takes an hour to learn how to do.  Writing a good APA *paper* takes a lifetime. (-:

 

Ruth in NZ

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