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Folklife Research: A Real-life Method of Teaching Research and Writing Skills in the Content Areas

THE PLAN

WEEKS SIX–NINE: WORKING AS GROUPS IN THE FIELD, DOCUMENTING AND WRITING ABOUT FOLKLIFE

These are busy weeks, but the excitement of the activity motivates everyone to work hard during and outside of class. Sometimes a team will stay after school or come to the classroom on a weekend. Often interviews are scheduled after school or on weekends. The following plan was followed for the basketmaking and syrup making issue of The Pine Cone, a student publication:

  1. Teams were assigned to each subject. Each team was responsible for interviewing and photographing three contacts, transcribing the interviews, writing articles on each contact and on the general activity, and selecting photographs to illustrate the activity.

  2. I arranged for each team visit and took students on most visits. If I could not go, a parent or colleague took the team.

  3. When the individual visits had been made, the interview tapes transcribed, and the photographs developed, the team worked together both in and outside of class to write the articles on the contacts. They took the articles through all the stages of revision and editing. Finally, they collaborated to write the general article describing the process of making syrup or baskets.

  4. When all articles had been prepared and I had approved them, we solicited from our school, parents, and community volunteers to type the manuscripts. I believe having the manuscripts prepared professionally is important, for this practice follows the model for publication and reinforces the sense of professionalism that I seek to build in students.

  5. Student teams blocked out the articles on paper, indicating where photographs should appear. They also proofed the finished copy and approved it for printing.

  6. In our first effort, costs of printing were covered by the sale of journals or booklets, which proved popular in the area. That year, I appointed a business manager, an eighth-grade girl, who gave each student ten copies and told them she expected the books to be sold in a week's time. We paid our printing bill at the end of the week and had a nice sum left to help with future projects.

For this issue, students in the seventh and eighth grades chose to include the younger class of fifth and sixth graders in the activity. They invited the younger students to write interview reports to be included in the journal. Thus, I taught an abbreviated version of the plan articulated here for the younger group. The younger students did not transcribe their taped interviews, but I listened to each and assigned a grade for interview technique and we made copies and deposited the tapes in the local library. They were a proud part of the project.

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