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Case Study of a Mini I-Search Unit

At the beginning of the 1994-1995 school year, the seventh grade interdisciplinary team from Crispus Attucks Middle School in Indianapolis designed a Mini I-Search Unit to introduce the I-Search process. The social studies and language arts teachers shared responsibility for this unit. The mini unit was completed in October over a span of two weeks. In the spring, the entire team did an eight-week Mini I-Search Unit.

The three goals for this unit were for:

  • students to have practice in posing researchable questions they care about
  • students to have practice gathering information from different resources
  • students to have practice conveying verbally what they learned‹content and process

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The students were in the process of completing a social studies assignment for which they selected a number of newspaper and magazine articles. Ann (SS) and Susan (LA) decided that to begin this unit students would look through their selection of articles and choose the one that interested them the most. They would re-read this article. Then they would pose a focused, researchable question based on what more they would like to learn about the subject of the article. Students would be required to use one source other than their article to find the answer to their question. For example they could use a book, encyclopedia, periodical, or interview of someone over the phone. Finally, they would prepare a presentation for their classmates. The presentation would be short but should include:

  • Title and source of original article
  • My question and why I was interested
  • What I used to gather information
  • What I found out
  • What it means to me
The questions and goals prompted teachers to develop ideas for lessons in which they would model steps in the research process for students. They also developed a number of tools to help students organize their information and communicate their thinking.

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The teachers gave students time to consider a number of questions they had about the article they selected. Once they narrowed this down to one question, students were asked to share it, tell why they were interested, predict the kinds of information they thought they would find, and where they'd find it using a set of guidelines designed by the teachers. Susan and Ann reviewed each of these papers before taking students to the library.

Before the trip to a nearby university library, Susan also modeled how to use a note-taking sheet they developed. On these sheets students recorded all the necessary bibliographic information about their source. They also took notes from the source directly on the oversized sheets.

Finally, students gave oral presentations about what they had learned. Again, they were given guide sheets as tools to help them plan what they would say. They were encouraged to use the sheets to refer to during their presentations.

The presentations were videotaped and later reviewed by Ann and Susan.

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