High school is an excellent place for students to begin honing their research and writing skills. Practicing these skills enables students to become better writers and thinkers. This activity could easily apply to clubs that have a project component which may require research, such as robotics club or a business club, to support a student project. After learning about research techniques, students will have the opportunity to participate in a "scavenger hunt" as they search for resources. They will then practice writing an outline for a research paper, and they will work with a partner to review the work they have done.
How do we become better writers and researchers?
Students identify skills needed in order to conduct thorough research and to write effective papers.
Students determine which research and writing techniques work best for them as they research and write about a subject that interests them.
Students create an outline as they conduct their research and prepare to write a paper.
Activity Slides (attached)
Planning the Perfect Paper Handout (one per student)
Research Scavenger Hunt Note Catcher (one per student)
Computers, tablets, or smartphones with internet access
Small slips of paper (one per student)
Pens or pencils
Use the attached Activity Slides to guide the activity. After you have displayed the title of the activity in slide 2, proceed to slide 3. This slide has intentionally been left blank, so that you can insert a link to an engaging video that is relevant to the club you are supervising.
Display slide 4. After watching the video, have students take out a sheet of paper and take 2-5 minutes to write responses to the following prompts in a modified 3-2-1 activity:
What are 3 things that fascinated you in this video?
What are 2 things you are interested to learn more about?
What is 1 question you would ask the maker of the video in order to learn more about the things you’re wondering about?
Take 5 minutes to ask students to share their responses to the 3-2-1. Make sure to move in order from the 3’s to the 2’s and finally to the 1’s.
After a few students have shared some 1’s, explain to them that they have already begun the research process without realizing it. They have encountered new information that has piqued their curiosity, and they have asked a single question with an answer that will enable people to draw new conclusions about a particular topic.
Ask students to take a few more minutes to reread the question they have written and to consider how, if at all, they would rephrase it if they wanted to write a research paper addressing this question. Call on a few volunteers to describe how they went about rephrasing their questions.
Display slide 5. Introduce students to the essential question. After you have explored the question, display slide 6 and go over the learning objectives with students.
Begin by asking students what they think makes a good research question. After you have taken a few minutes to hear their responses, display slide 7.
Introduce them to types of questions highlighted in the Stoplight Questions strategy. Instruct them to write down their research questions on a slip of paper. Once they have done so, collect the slips from students, and read each question for them. After reading an individual question, ask students to identify that question as red, yellow, or green, and to justify their choices. For red and yellow questions, ask students what they think it would take to turn those questions green. For green questions, ask students why they regard them as high-quality research questions.
Once this class discussion has ended, display slide 8. Encourage students to revisit their research questions and take a few minutes to edit their questions so that they are better designed to guide the readers of their planned papers toward new conclusions on a variety of subjects.
Next, you will want to make sure that students recognize the difference between primary sources and secondary sources, and that they understand that it will be important to consult multiple examples of both as they attempt to answer their questions in writing. Display slide 9 and share with students the brief video that will allow students to understand the differences between primary and secondary sources.
The last thing you will want to do prior to embarking on the scavenger hunt is to provide students with the criteria they will need to assess the credibility of the sources they will be locating. Display slide 10 and introduce students to A-CLAP. Tell students that they should keep this handy acronym in mind as they encounter each resource at the library. Remind students to ask themselves with each resource they examine:
Is the author listed, and if so, what are their qualifications?
How current is the source?
What is the author's leaning; do they present information in an objective manner?
Is the source accurate?
What is the purpose of the source?
When you are ready to begin the scavenger hunt, display slide 11 before heading to the library. Tell students that they will have 30-45 minutes to find 3-5 printed media sources (at least one of each: books, magazine/newspaper articles) in the library catalog that they would use to answer their research questions. They will also need to find 1 or 2 digital media sources (i.e., Internet articles, blog posts) they would like to use.
Once you arrive at the library and are ready to begin the hunt, pass out a copy of the Research Scavenger Hunt Note Catcher to each student. Make sure to go over each of the columns (Author(s), Published Date, Article/Book/Website Titles, Notes, A-CLAP), so that students know what to write in each. As students hunt for sources, feel free to let them work in groups or on their own. Regardless of how they choose to work, make sure to check on students as they research, and be ready to answer any question they might have throughout the process.
Display slide 12 and pass out the Planning the Perfect Paper handout. On both the slide and the handout, you will find a list of research and writing skills that were recommended by college and career coach Bill Leamon on p. 39 of his book, College Success 101. Take a few minutes to review these recommended skills with students. Ask students whether they have used any of these skills in the past and to imagine scenarios in which they might be able to use them in the future. Also, make sure to reassure students that they will only focus on the first three listed skills during this activity.
Advise students that they will create an outline that will help them organize ideas for their hypothetical papers. Before they begin to do so, display slide 13. They will watch a short video that will help them understand how to create the outline that works best for them.
Once students have watched the video, display slide 14, and make sure students have a good understanding of how a quality research paper should be structured. They will want to keep this structure in mind as they prepare to write their outlines.
Have students take out a piece of paper. At the top of the paper, they should write out the research question they have come up with. Beneath that question, they will have about 15 minutes to put their outlines together individually. As they are writing, feel free to walk around the room. Be prepared to answer any questions that students might have.
After students have finished writing their outlines, split them into pairs. Display slide 15. Run through the listed instructions. Explain to students that they have 5-10 minutes to read through their partner’s outline. Let them know also that they are to try out an activity called Partner Speaks. As they read through their partner’s outline, they keep the research question listed at the top in mind and check to see if each section of the outline succeeds in answering that question. They also check to see if their partner has succeeded in creating an outline that will enable them to write a paper with a good introduction, body, and conclusion.
After the review session has ended, have students turn to their partners and spend another 5-10 minutes answering the first three questions listed in slide 15. Each student will share with their partner if they think the outline will help them write a good research paper and if it succeeded in answering the research question. They will also provide their partner with constructive criticism, as they will highlight what they liked about the outline and what their partner could do to improve it (e.g., additional resources consulted, focus on additional ideas, etc.) in order to more adequately address their research question.
Next, devote 10-15 minutes to having each partner stand up in front of the class to answer the remaining two questions on slide 15. They will share their partner’s research question with the class and explain what they have learned after reading their partner’s outline. They will also summarize the topic of their partner’s proposed paper to the rest of the group.
Display slide 16. Explain to students that they will conclude this activity by completing a 5-10 minute Quick Write exercise during which they will write the first paragraph of their hypothetical papers.
Let students know that writing the first paragraph can often be the most challenging part of writing a paper. Reassure them that they should not worry. The object of a Quick Write is to write freely without worrying about grammar or what other people might think. If they had just a few minutes to share with someone why a topic interests them and why they think it is important for them to understand why their research question is worth asking, what would they write? Tell students that the Quick Write will be their chance to answer that question.
After students have taken a few minutes to write their introductory paragraphs, either on pieces of paper or on their computers, review their Quick Writes and outlines as assessments and return them to students at a later date.
Regardless of the focus of the extracurricular activity, club participation can lead to higher grades (Durlak et al., 2010; Fredricks & Eccles, 2006; Kronholz, 2012), and additional benefits are possible when these clubs explore specific curricular frameworks. Club participation enables students to acquire and practice skills beyond a purely academic focus. It also affords them opportunities to develop skills such as self-regulation, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking (Allen et al., 2019). When structured with a strong curricular focus, high school clubs can enable participants to build the critical social skills and "21st-century skills" that better position them for success in college and the workforce (Allen et al., 2019; Durlak et al., 2010; Hurd & Deutsch, 2017). Supportive relationships between teachers and students can be instrumental in developing a student's sense of belonging (Pendergast et al., 2018; Wallace et al., 2012), and these support systems enable high-need, high-opportunity youth to establish social capital through emotional support, connection to valuable information resources, and mentorship in a club context (Solberg et al., 2021). Through a carefully designed curriculum that can be implemented within the traditional club structure, students stand to benefit significantly as they develop critical soft skills.
K20 Center. (2021, March 24). A-CLAP. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/183
K20 Center. (2020, September 24). Google Drawings. Tech Tools. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/tech-tool/629
K20 Center. (2020, September 16). Partner speaks. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/62
K20 Center. (2021, February 12). Quick write. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/1127
K20 Center. (2021, April 14). Stoplight questions. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/943
K20 Center. (2020, September 16). 3-2-1. Strategies. https://learn.k20center.ou.edu/strategy/117
Leamon, B. (2019). College success 101: A professor’s simple strategies for success in your first 101 days. Independently published.
UNC Writing Center. (2019, January 14). Outlines - UNC Writing Center [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZUrlFY84Kw
University of Houston Libraries. (2020, March 18). What are primary and secondary sources? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3JrQ6sHZ8c
The Wall Street Journal. (2018, January 12). Building a better robot [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNaWTFb3Om4