Friday, November 13, 2015

Using detailed documents to spark interesting research questions:

One area of focus in Freshman World History is giving students opportunities to formulate their own research questions.  Many students at the freshman level have little experience with this task and are surprised at how difficult it is to come up with a good question.  Good questions are generally relevant to the document, focused, and feasible to answer.

For this activity, we used a very detailed map of Germanic migrations and conquests (150 - 1066).  The students were placed in groups of 5-6 and spent a length of time "close reading" the document.  They were asked to try and notice everything on the map.  They needed to gain an understanding of how the provided key was organized and used and then familiarize themselves with the movements of the various groups.

Each group was then asked to discuss the map together and brainstorm a variety of questions that this map could generate.  Upon choosing a question that they believed met the criteria provided, they then wrote a hypothesis concerning their question, listed all clues they could find on the map, and began searching for quality sources that could help them discover the answer to the question that they asked.

When they returned the next class period, students were expected to have their question fully researched and answered (if possible) along with properly cited sources (MLA format).  We took time sharing out some of the questions and the answers that they found.   Here are some of the questions the students came up with;

Why did some Germanic Tribes migrate and some did not? ~ Justin Y.
Can I make a better / easier to read map than the one shared with us? ~ Truman G.
Why did the Vandals split into so many areas from Carthage in 429 C.E.? ~ Evan O.
Which of these tribes most influenced modern times? ~ Sherine S.
How was religion affected by the movement of Germanic tribes throughout Europe? ~ Samhita S.  

After sharing out, the students were given time to write a reflection on the process of creating a quality research question and finding credible sources.  This activity will hopefully aid the students in deciding on what adjustments they may need to make in their research process as they begin reading their historical fiction novel in Mrs. Teal's class.  As they read their novel, they will be asked to create a variety of questions and find credible sources related to these questions creating as a final product an Annotated Bibliography.

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