Thursday, June 28, 2012

Writing to Explore: Discovering Adventure in the Research Paper

That is a mouthful of a title, is it not?

Writing to Explore: Discovering Adventure in the Research Paper, 3-8Writing to Explore: Discovering Adventure in the Research Paper, 3-8 by David Somoza

I think this book may be this summer's Wonder (loved that one and need another reading of it, I think, to truly implement it as I wanted to ... but will I make that time? We'll see! Seems sort of sad to reread a professional book when there are so many others that I haven't gone back and enjoyed again but ...)

This was written by a former architect turned fifth grade teacher. He read his student's writing and just ... wasn't excited by it. THEY weren't excited by it and that was part of the problem.

I wish I could say the teacher librarian was mentioned extensively in this book as a collaborator and contributor to the project. I do not know if the school just didn't have one, or the author did not want to work with him or her (or even worse, vice versa!), or what happened.

Not once did I see the word library.

That said? This project sounds like so much fun! And the results are amazing. I would LOVE to try this--just not sure how to ever convince a teacher to devote that much time. Ten year old students learn to integrate facts they gleaned from searching the internet along with questions and creativity from their own minds. I don't know that I would actually call it a research paper per se ... although what would that mean differently? The kids cite their sources. They use multiple sources. They use their own words and ideas guided by experts. Inside the book the author calls it an adventure essay which just seems more appropriate. They choose a state and some sort of quest ... then they look for information that will build the story along the way. History, landforms, roads, hotels, flights, animals, weather. You name it. He couldn't keep doing it if his kiddos' test scores were not acceptable, right? So frustrating that time is always determined by test scores. What will they remember more as they grow older. This project and the pride they took in its creation? Or X number of days spent on test prep workbooks and practice benchmarks?

At one point Mr. Lourie mentions hearing a "well-intentioned, overworked" librarian say that Fiction begins with an F and we can use "fake" to remember that. Fiction=Fake. Non-fiction=real. Or, perhaps I would be clearer to say that he did NOT agree with said statement as even stories must be based in real interactions between characters or the environment. That's true. Will have to remember that for next year because I could be guilty of saying the same thing myself. Oops. :/

Examples of different handouts are in the appendix.


Here's an Edutopia article about a school visit by Mr. Lourie.
How odd that this review is longer than any I've written in a long while. I guess it's because I totally cannot remember where I heard about this book from and didn't really see much in the way of reviews online for it. I quite enjoyed it and can't believe it sat on my shelf for almost a year.


  1. This sounds like a fantastic book, thanks for this post! I'm hoping to start a writing club as an after-school program for kids & this book sounds like it has great suggestions. I'll definitely have to check it out!

    And I like what you mentioned about Fiction having it's basis in fact. It seems that one of the keys to good writing is honesty.

    Anyway, thanks so much for this post and for suggesting such a great book!

  2. I will have to look for this book. Thanks for sharing it! My principal has agreed to let me teach fourth and fifth graders in the computer lab next year, during their reading intervention time. I'll have one small group from each class for several weeks at a time to do a student-selected research project. Eventually, every student in fourth and fifth will come to me for this project. I get to do this because the teachers wouldn't budge from the "state reports" from the "state books" or "animal reports" from the "animal books" that they've always done. My principal is as frustrated by that as I am.