CONTEXT: An I-Search Curriculum Unit is an inquiry-based, interdisciplinary unit that works well in middle schools with student who have and do not have learning disabilities. Based on the work of Macrorie (1988), the unit usually lasts approximately eight weeks. An I-Search Unit has four phases of instruction.
In Phase I, teachers immerse students in the unit's theme (i.e., a socially relevant topic that naturally links science, social studies, language arts, and mathematics). Students engage in a variety of authentic activities, not only to discover what they already know about this theme, but also to build background knowledge. These activities model for students a variety of ways to gather information. By the end of Phase I, each student poses an I-Search question to guide his or her personally-motivated inquiry. In Phase II, students develop a search plan that identifies how they will gather information by reading books, magazines, newspapers, reference materials; watching videos, filmstrips; interviewing people or conducting surveys; or carrying out experiments, doing simulations, or going on field trips. In Phase III, students gather, sort and integrate information by following their search plans. In Phase IV, students draft, revise, edit, and publish an I-Search Report which includes the following sections: My Search Questions, My Search Process, What I Learned, What This Means To Me, and References. The report becomes the foundation for an oral report, skit, poster, experiment, or other exhibition of knowledge.
DESCRIPTION: As part of a current federally-funded project, EDC is developing the Search Organizer, a software program that guides students (especially students with learning disabilities) through the I-Search process. To help student in Phase 1 (immersion), the Search Organizer has templates with prompting questions that help students process information from the immersion activities, identify emerging interests and possible areas to investigate, and finally pose their I-Search question. For Phase II, it helps students develop a plan by identifying resources under the categories of read, watch, ask, and do event. It provides guidelines for citations and allows students to keep a running chronicle of their search process. For Phase III, the Search Organizer offers students a template for keeping track of interesting information related to their question. In addition, it also helps them analyze information by providing templates for sequencing information and comparing and contrasting information. Finally, for the fourth phase, the report writing phase, the program includes an outline of the report. All the information students have already inputted into the program is slotted into the appropriate sections of the report. This becomes a first draft that students can export into a word processing program such as ClarisWorks for further revising and editing.
Search Organizer has two other important features. One is a glossary that can be created by students or teachers. The second is a comment card. As teachers review student's work, they can add comments and provide advice, almost like a response journal. All screens and student work can be printed.
Judith Zorfass, Ed.D., Education Development Center, 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA
02160. Phone: (617) 969-7100, x2426; (800) 225-4276.
Article: "Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities: Integrating Technology into an I-Search Unit"
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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts. NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013. Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information. If you do so, please cite NCIP. Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government. This site was last updated in September 1998.
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