What does a Texas girl do in the middle of the summer when the temperature soars to 100 degrees or more? Makes a fake winter, of course. All it takes is an A/C window unit and a good book that presents a setting far different than the sweltering sidewalk outside.
From Wikipedia, this is actually from Winter 1881 that Wilder fictionalized in The Long Winter. (Train, 2017)
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder was perfect for curling up underneath the air conditioner in the front room (my sisters and I would actually fight over that spot, the only cool spot in the house). In the book, the teenage Laura and her family fight to stay warm during an excruciatingly bitter winter in the early 1880s. Quite the opposite set up of me trying to stay cool in Texas summer.
Two images stay with me from that book. First, it was so cold, the nailheads in the attic always had frost on them in the morning. I can see little white circles in a line on the slanted roof! What kind of winter causes that? Brrrrr. The other is a scene where Ma decides that to have fuel for the fire, they would twist hay into sticks. And so they did…twist after twist after twist. My poor Texas mind could not wrap around such a scarcity of fuel, nevermind the cold that would require it.
During my first graduate degree, I took a Children’s Literature class. Pretty much the only thing I remember the instructor specifically say to me was about this book. “You should read it as an adult,” she said. Having lived on the North Slope of Alaska, now I do know what a long winter is like and yes, that book is a different read. But it will always take me back to summers in Texas.
In our district, 4th Quarter is research quarter in ELA. Now really, every day is research day anymore, but this is where we do the deliberate instruction of skills for an extended project. In past years, students did a traditional research paper; last year, I added a digital presentation to that paper and honestly, those were more fun to review than the papers.
This year, my co-teacher and I decided to skip the paper (though it is an option for anyone who wants to take it; it hasn’t gone away for good) and do an “extended research project.” A new step for the students is creating an annotated bibliography for their sources.
What a packed assignment! Finding sources, initially analyzing for usefulness, taking notes on ones that pass the first step, summarizing the source, and putting it all into APA format takes a lot of work. Once that is done, the next step is to make a useful project out of the information to answer whatever research question the students self-selected.
Our goal, particularly in middle school, is to have students test out a variety of ways to “show what they know” so that as we more completely move into the personalized learning initiative our district has (thankfully!) embraced, the kids have skills to really personalize.
As an example, this annotation relates to the read aloud the middle school is doing, The Wild Robot Escapes. It’s a little short; it could be two paragraphs with the second one relating more about how the source relates to the (undisclosed) research question.