Step 4 - Use of Information

Step 4 in the Big 6 is Use of Information, or investigating the sources you have chosen and taking notes.

We will be staying in this step of the Big6 for about five school days. During that time, Mrs. Perry will be teaching two lessons. Bring your list of sources and your keyword diagram with you to the media center.

Lesson One

Today's topic is an important one, because it can get you an F in English and even get you kicked out of college. I'm talking about plagiarism. The dictionary tells us that plagiarism is "taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own." That seems rude, maybe, but enough to get you kicked out of college?? Well, think about this: plagiarism comes from the Latin word for kidnapper. If you had created something, like a research paper, a story, or an invention, and someone else kidnapped it and said they came up with it on their own, you'd be pretty mad, right? It's stealing, only ideas instead of something physical.

It's fine, and even necessary, to use other people's ideas. If I ask you to tell me about what kind of plants grow in a rain forest, are you going to go there and find me some plants, or are you going to find the answer in a book? The book, of course! But when you tell me what you found out, you should also tell me where you got your information, so I don't assume that you've been trekking around the rain forest just to find that answer. Some poor guy did it, and he should get the credit.

We're going to look at some examples of writing and decide whether the person who wrote them gets kicked out of college or not. Then we're going to talk about how to use the information we find in a way that puts someone else's ideas into our own words and also gives the original author credit. Don't worry, we're going to practice it.

Lesson Two

Imagine you are at home while your parents are out. The phone rings. It's a friend of your parents who wants to leave them a message about where and when to meet for dinner that night. The person is calling from a pay phone and is talking very fast before his time runs out. If you don't write it down, you'll never remember the message, but if you try write down every word, you'll never get it all. You have to sift through the information and only write down the most important parts, like the name of the restaurant, the time to meet, and a phone number to call back later.

Taking notes for a report is just like taking a phone message. You have to sort through a lot of stuff that may not help answer your questions to find the things that do. When we are through today, you are going to be able to take notes in only a few words. Think of all the time and hand cramps you'll save!

Another reason for keeping notes short is that it forces you to paraphrase. You won't have the whole sentence in front of you when you're writing, so you have to use your own words!

First, we're going to use keywords to scan an encyclopedia article for the section that looks promising, and then take that section apart until we find only the important bits. I like to call them fact fragments. That's what we'll write down as notes.

There are times when you'll want to write a longer note, for example when you're going to quote an important passage word for word. Most of the time, though, you'll be surprised at how few words you'll have to write down.

We're going to look at an example together, and you'll get some time to practice. We'll also begin using a data sheet to record your notes. It will help keep you organized as you work on your research project.

Your homework assignment puts together the skills you've learned over these two lessons. You'll need this article on global warming and a data sheet for the assignment. It's due tomorrow.

Before we finish, fill out this short questionnaire. The topics we've covered yesterday and today can be a little confusing. I want to make sure everyone is feeling good about what we've learned before we move on.

Related Activities

Mrs. Ryan will be teaching lessons on persuasive writing during language arts. You will be using the RATE checklist to decide whether sources are "note-worthy." Tomorrow, I will show you how to cite your sources on your data sheet.

At this point, you will be choosing how you want to present your group findings. Some suggestions are: