- Looking to find a way to encourage her 11th graders how to write a research paper, Jori Krulder, a high school English teacher at Paradise High School in Chico, California, turned to podcasts as their first projects of the school year, she writes in Edutopia.
- Students had the freedom to pick any topic they wanted. They worked in groups to develop research questions as they also learned which sources were ones they could trust, and how to use them in their projects.
- The class grew invested in the process, creating pieces they hoped would resonate with their fellow students, as they learned how to structure, research, and build a thorough, well-argued piece.
By teaching students how to research a topic, whether that’s through podcasting techniques or another format, educators are essentially showing them basic journalism skills — the who, what, where, when, why and how of a story. These elements are crucial to any narrative, one told through an audio piece, or through a poem.
Identifying these basic elements improves writing as it establishes a structure around the information that students gather about the topic they are researching. Having students start with these pieces may also help new or reluctant writers feel more comfortable, taking some of the unknown out of the process and giving them those first steps. It can also shift students from beginning stream-of-conscious writing and into something more organized
Structure may also, indirectly, help students discover their own voice as can other forms of writing, such as spoken word poetry or hip hop music. Once comfortable with the basic stepping stones, students can fill in the spaces — the adjectives, flow and content — with what they want to say, and how they want to say it.
As with any expressive form, learning the basics are crucial. Students must know how to read musical notes and play scales before drafting their own piece. Knowing how to shade and draw is core to painting a portrait. So too are knowing the basics of what to include in a research paper, the groundwork for writing a personal story of one’s own.