Common Core Standards: ELA
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
In this standard, students are asked to demonstrate their ability to explore a specific topic, find multiple sources of information, and create a product that blends that information into a focused study of the subject. They’re going to be showing off their research, analytical, and writing skills, and all that jazz. An important piece of this standard is to provide opportunities for students to conduct both short and long-term research. In short-term projects, students should focus on finding credible information efficiently and synthesizing that information in order to answer a question. In long-term projects, students should investigate more sources, looking into all sides of the issue to develop a depth of understanding that will allow them to draw their own conclusions. In both cases, proper research skills, such as narrowing or broadening the search, evaluating sources, and citing references, will be important. Take a look at the following example for some ideas to use in your classroom.
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Using this Standard
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You are a musician at heart. You play in your school’s jazz band, and while studying the Harlem Renaissance, the lyrics of the music played in speakeasies of the 1920s struck a chord in your soul. The poems of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Zora Neale Hurston have put more passion into your piano playing. When asked to write a multi-genre paper on some a portion of the Harlem Renaissance, you come up with your own research question: How did jazz become the favored musical genre of the Harlem Renaissance? Nice gig.
Next, to get your HIP on, generate a list of other questions you could ask about your topic. Use the Bloom’s Taxonomy chart your teacher is always referring to, and try to ask yourself at least one question from each level: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. Which musicians were drawn to that area? Where did they perform? What emotions and ideas were created within the lyrics and melodies of their songs? What other musical genres gave birth to jazz? Then, use these questions as you begin your research. You DIG?
As you type “history of jazz” in your search bar, you see that 194,000,000 sites mention this topic. Whoa, you’ll need to narrow that down. You use key terms from your research questions to get more specific information from your search, and you can narrow your results further by date and type of document to find just what you need. As you begin reading, you learn that jazz was strictly an American invention, and specific locations in the country had distinct styles. The music expressed the racial conflicts that dominated the country in the early 1900s. Knowing that the Harlem Renaissance took place predominantly in New York City, you’ll focus your paper on that location.
These topics and your research questions will be your main focus. Trying to write about the entire history of jazz would give you the blues. You know that you could include all types of jazz from other geographical areas of the country, like Chicago and New Orleans, but you decide to narrow your inquiry to New York and the Harlem Renaissance. You also understand that jazz could probably be traced back to the first hollers sung on Southern plantations, but if you’re not trying to document its entire history, that information probably doesn’t belong in this paper. It’s tempting to throw in every interesting idea you find, but you know you need to keep your specific topic focus in mind and stick to Harlem.
Since it’s a multi-genre project, you’ll use links that will lead your reader to videos and recordings of the music as well as photographs of the performers and the speakeasies. The musician that you are insists that you’ll add some sample sheet music too. In fact, that might be a great background for your paper instead of plain white. As a personal touch, you’ll include that video of you and the jazz group performing at the last band concert.
You will show your teacher and your classmates that you can keep a narrow focus on a research topic using multiple sources to illustrate your expertise in a subject you love. Very cool. Yes, SPEAKing of jazz, this paper’s going to be EASY.
Answer the following questions.
1. List three sources of different genres that would be helpful in finding information to complete the sample assignment described above.
2. Give three different examples of questions that you might ask about the topic from the sample assignment. Think Bloom’s Taxonomy.
3. Define the term synthesis.
a. Library books on the history of jazz and the Harlem Renaissance.
b. Music videos of modern and historical musicians.
c. Documentaries about the era and the musicians involved.
a. Who is considered to be the “Father of Jazz?”
b. What genres of music influenced the development of jazz?
c. What emotions are commonly associated with jazz, and how do the music and lyrics work together to create those emotions?
3. Synthesis is the combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole. In this standard, it refers to a writer’s ability to construct a discussion of ideas that draws on more than one source, explaining how each piece of information contributes to the main question or topic.