In class today we were quietly reading some material on labor and the Pullman strike which afforded me a chance to touch base with some of my students regarding their research papers. (We will be working on preparing for a big debate next week and this reading will help to place this debate in a larger context.) Their research topics are many and varied. All are connected to the time period between the 1893 Columbian Exposition and the Century of Progress in 1933, and most of the topics are connected to Chicago. The kids seem excited about their topics, in part because they were able to choose whatever they wanted to explore inside the given parameters. Some are actually doing real history by examining and interpreting primary source material. They are also working to create a strong thesis statement to hold their work together so that it is not a report, but an actual argument they are making about what they have learned. The kind of thinking this takes is the most challenging for them.
While I moved from student to student, they worked on defining key words and concepts in the Pullman reading. And yes, someone left some of their notes behind.
Clearly there are all kinds of research and reflection going on in this 8th grade classroom.