Middle School students ‘write across the curriculum’ with research paper

Middle School students work in Scott Tinker’s computer lab.

Middle School teachers worked together to create a cross-curriculum research project for eighth graders that gives students a stronger grasp of history, writing, and the process of creating a detailed report.

In October, students picked topics from early colonial figures they had been studying in Ryan Wernquist’s history class. English teacher Ruth Ann Morrison worked with them to develop a thesis statement and outline, and computer science teacher Scott Tinker helped students with MLA style and formatting.

Students received a history grade from Wernquist based on the subject matter and an English grade from Morrison based on grammar and sentence structure. Students worked on the project in both classes, and Tinker let them use the computer lab during study hall.

“It worked out great,” Morrison said. “I think they enjoyed it because it was killing two birds with one stone. They were getting two grades, but they were only doing one project.”

Students also had the benefit of getting help from three teachers, she said. The teachers benefitted by sharing the load. Morrison could focus on English, and Wernquist could focus on history.

The finished report was three to four pages with a works cited page. Students learned step-by-step how to develop a thesis, gather information, use note cards, and pull everything together in a coherent paper. They earned points for steps such as sources, the outline, and notecards.

This is the second year the teachers have collaborated on the research project. Morrison said they recognize the merits of the approach and will continue to collaborate each year in the future.

Learning the process helps with research projects students will encounter in Upper School, and it gives Middle School teachers an opportunity to address an important directive, Morrison said.

“We’ve been asked to get them to do writing across the curriculum, and this was one way to achieve that goal.”