Research Paper Unit

For the next four weeks, I will be teaching 7th graders how to write a research paper. The 7th grade Language Arts team has decided to have the students investigate one decade in the 20th century and write a paper about an important person from that decade. The students are given a list of important people (mostly politicians) from which to choose.

Because my mentor teacher wrote an expository essay as an example for the students while teaching the expository unit, I have decided to write a research paper while my students write their own. I would like for the writing/research process to be totally transparent for my students. I want to show them that not only can it be done, but that they can have fun doing the project. 

 One component of this research project that I like is the interview portion. Each student is to interview someone over the age of 50 and ask questions about their topic. Since I have an interest in the Great Depression on Georgia farming families, I will be able to interview both my mother and my mother-in-law.  Though my mother has Alzheimer’s, she still remembers her childhood. Her memories of life on a cotton farm in Cobb County during the Depression are somewhat surprising because she never went without food or clothing. She was fairly insulated from the harsh realities of the times because her father was successful running his farm.  However, my mother-in-law was a teenager during the Depression, and as a result, her adult life (and the lives of her children) was shaped by the hardships, the lack, the rationing, the sacrifices. Reusing material goods and hoarding are a way of life for them.

 One web site that I particularly like to visit is, the American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 – 1940.  This site is very reader friendly, and the writers captured the voices and stories of real Americans living and surviving during the Great Depression.

 I believe that there is great power in visual images, therefore I will require my students to find three to five photographs representing the decade that they are investigating. Here are three that I will use for my project:


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