Virtual Travel with Authors- Creating a Reading Community with a Short Research Project

It’s not easy to come up with a short, creative, engaging research prompt that every student is interested in responding to, given that they are all reading different books (save for the three eleventh grade girls who chose to read The Kite Runner together).

It’s important to assign tasks that challenge students who are often looking to take things to the nth level, but that will also provide an opportunity for scaffolding and success with the students who sometimes struggle with research, reading, and writing assignments.

That’s why, when I saw this article about literary journeys on today, I realized that I had found some virtual classroom gold.

The travel article 23 literary journeys with the world’s great writers is a list. It’s a list of authors, books, places, and potential adventures. And it’s the perfect mentor text for an in-class, community-building, short-and-sweet piece of mini-research writing.

Students will choose their favorite or most impactful books from this school year – titles that are not on the CNN mentor text list – and do some quick, deliberate research. They will discover important details about the authors and the settings they have been reading about and maybe taking for granted.

It will help them to visualize what they are reading, and to build background knowledge and context for difficult textsIt will help them study and discover setting.

They will then demonstrate their thinking and research skills with a succinct piece of writing which describes the author’s background and how a site was made famous by either book or author.

The writing will be between three and seven well-crafted sentences, just as in the mentor text.

This precise, authentic piece of student writing will help to foster not only new and deeper understanding of the book and author, but will also provides these young authors with authentic practice regarding the research writing standards CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.7 and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.7 which both reference short research projects.

The final drafts can then be published by compiling, printing, or posting online, and shared from student to student, class to class. They can be displayed on walls, in halls, and in school libraries.

The purpose, beyond writing concise and cohesive short and creative research pieces, is also to generate some interest in “new” titles for student readers, which creates a natural and authentic audience for the writers.

This new, natural, and authentic reader will now have background information, context, and enthusiasm before starting to read the new book that was inspired by the travel article that was compiled by the classroom authors.

It’s an activity that helps promote a community of readers and writers. One that shares and creates next reads lists together, recommends titles, accepts and solicits recommendations, and can quickly research, respond, and synthesize information.

I’m excited to find out which books and settings they choose to research and describe. I’m sure I’ll be inspired to travel to some place new, and to read a book I’ve not considered before.


Follow Julie on Twitter: @SwinehartJulie

Author: adventuresinhighschoolworkshop

Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for nineteen years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, four in Amman, Jordan, and is currently in her second year teaching in Managua, Nicaragua.

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