Mrs. Armstrong has graciously given me full rein with her English III and Pre-AP English III students as they begin work on what they tell me is their first persuasive research paper they have written since eighth grade. We are basically following my “better research” plan, with a few additional activities. However, we have yet to attend more than two school days in a row since winter break, due to that lovely white stuff that falls from the sky. This means that I am condensing instruction more than ever, so that students have plenty of time to get in there and apply the information literacy skills that I hope they are learning.
One tool that we explored was use of Bubbl.us to brainstorm and organize pre-research thoughts. The full lesson plan is below and also highlighted in Part I of my earlier post on better research (see link above). I am happy to report that students were engaged and seemed to see more value in this pre-research/ organizational tool than some of the more traditional brainstorming methods. One key element to success was giving them 10 minutes with each of their three possible topics for an “exploratory glimpse” of their topic. This gave them a chance to add and categorize more information as they built their Bubbl.us mindmap than if they had gone at it cold.
I did not have students create accounts, which meant that their only option was to print their mindmap at the end of the block. I did give them the option to create an account if they wanted to save their mindmap to come back to edit. I believe that only 3-4 students out of 115 did so. (I saw those students back on Bubbl.us on the following general research days.) One downfall to the tool is that a free account only allows for one mindmap to be saved before being prompted to “upgrade” (which I’m sure involves payment). Modifying and editing their mindmaps just before outlining could be very beneficial, but I believe the exercise of getting their ideas on screen and being able to organize/categorize/etc. was helpful as a pre-research activity.
Here are a few pictures of students at work using Bubbl.us, all at various stages of complexity: