Drawing from the Well

Chapter Two Lowering the Bucket
Lesson 1 - Developing Research Skills

Setting the Stage:

Historically, research has been the most challenging phase of the Drawing from the Well program. Getting students to do meaningful research takes clear expectations, student initiative and follow-through. Our intent is for students to know enough about their chosen subject matter for them to form intelligent questions and respond to the interviewee's comments. Additionally, the research is integral to the final product.

Determining where to start with student research greatly depends upon:

  1. what, if any, research the students have already done prior to Drawing from the Well
  2. whether this will be the only research they do to meet the state standards for the year
  3. how much time there is to accomplish it
  4. the availability of the library and/or internet, and other sources
  5. the teacher's usual method of teaching research skills

The following lesson assumes students know how to do research. If they do not, this is an opportune time to teach them, since they get excited to do the interviews and the projects.

If you would like to teach the research skills, do the steps you usually use to teach accessing resources, organizing and taking notes, developing a bibliography, citing sources, and synthesizing and presenting information. If you would like some new ideas, there are many sites on the internet you can use. (See Appendix/Resources)

Hint: Choose only one or two new skills (like note-taking and citing sources) to focus on. It is important not to lose the momentum and interest of the students.

To assess what the students know and can do for researching, let them loose. Monitor the research process to identify those needing more guidance. One source done well is better than a downloaded bibliography.

Acquiring new information about the group's topic and formulating interview questions is the focus of this lesson. From the Group Research handout (Appendix/Samples and Activities) students will have signed up to access source material from libraries, the internet and publications. In this lesson students will not only find that material, but they will begin to read, take notes and develop educated questions.


  • Students will access information from a variety of sources
  • Students will organize new information for further questions and inquiry
  • Students will explain new information to peers for learning

NM State Standards: Language Arts I-B (7-1, 2, 3, 4) (8-1, 2) and I-C (8-1)

Materials and Resources Needed:
Library and/or computer lab for students
Group Research Handout #6 (filled-in) from Chapter One, Lesson 10.

Duration: At least two classes, with time between -- enough time for students to research depending on availability of library/computer lab and other resources to be used.

Day 1. Activities:
Explain to students the requirements you have for research and documentation. Have students meet in their teams to make decisions and assignments. Each individual can have at least one source for information. When complete, groups need to have the teacher check their plans. (Look for inequities or unreasonable expectations such as a poor reader getting the largest reading requirement, or listing sources you know are not available to them.)

Each student will individually seek his/her source, collect information, write an original summary citing the source, and write at least three interview questions pertaining to their information. Use these questions as prompts after students read their material:

  • What questions remain in my mind?
  • What do I still want to know?
  • What would a person know about this topic that won't be in a reference book?

Give students the due date for their summaries and questions for Day 2.

One year, students began to study the significance of the Great Depression. By learning about the stock market crash and the panic people experienced, a student formed questions about the impact of the Great Depression on people locally. Questions such as, " How did the Great Depression impact northern New Mexicans?" and "What did you do with a shortage of supplies?" and "What government programs were you affected by?" were questions that stemmed from reading.

Day 2. Activities: Reconvene the teams to exchange their summaries and questions. Emphasize that each student is responsible for understanding the information presented by teammates. After each student presents, teams will discuss the questions and see if any new questions develop as a result of the new information. When finished with all the summaries, the groups analyze their questions and decide which ones they want to include in their interview. Have students develop a progression of questions that offer a comprehensive investigation of their subject matter. You may ask each group to turn in their list of questions.

Student and Teacher Assessment:
After Day 1: To monitor individual work, the teacher can collect the summaries and questions before Day 2 to assess capabilities and to check for accuracy. Some students may have to be asked to redo their work with direction and/or assistance. Problems with plagiarism can be identified and addressed.

At the end of Day 2: The student teams can assess their group work through discussion or reflective writing. You may choose to use the Team Rubric as a prompt for discussion or have the students fill it out. Whether students assess their work individually or within a group, they will have the opportunity to benefit from reflection.

The interview questions should be analyzed for thoughtfulness and effectiveness, giving suggestions and ideas to improve them. In the next lesson students will examine their questions and determine whether they are "open-ended" and encourage the interviewees to tell as much as they know about the subject and their lives.