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Friday, January 29, 2016

What career should I choose?

Every January, career planning takes center stage at the middle school in 8th grade. A week is spent with our guidance counselors, taking self inventories and surveys, talking about career clusters, and generally thinking about what students want to do with the rest of their lives. I'm sure some adults can't answer this questions, but at least we want our 8th grade students to be thinking about it.

The following week these young minds come to me. During my time with the 8th grade students, we pick a career that they seem interested in and research what goes into achieving a position in that occupation. This includes everything from a general description to licensing to pros and cons that they find about the job. After their research is complete, students work with their literacy teacher to write an informative paper about their chosen career.

But the research is the part that's my baby, so let me expound upon that. :)

First of all, I teach the students that research is something you do everyday, even if you don't call it that. You research how to get from one place to another. You research the song you just heard on the radio. You research the news story about $90,000 worth of cheese that was stolen (this really happened!). Any time you're looking up information you are researching. So to make a bigger project like this not so overwhelming, we use a set of steps called the Big6 to keep us organized and on track.

The first three steps of the Big6 are planning steps; we figure out what information we need, where we are going to look, and how we are going to search. Step four is where we spend most of our time. During this step, we actually start looking in the resources we want to use to, we take notes, and we create citations for our resources. This is a nit-picky step, true, but all that attention to detail teaches students that the work that someone creates has value, that that work needs acknowledgement for the effort that went into creating it.
These 8th grade boys found the floor more motivational for their research then the classroom desks.

Step five of the Big6 we completely skip while I'm with them due to the fact that that is the step in which they synthesize their information into a product, namely their essay. However we do step six very quickly, in which they evaluation how they think their research went; students ask themselves if there were there things to do better next time and what grade they deserve both for the process of researching and the product of their research.

So that's it in a nutshell. We had students in 8th grade research everything from tattoo artist to civil engineer, from physician to furnace repair person, and from computer programmer to human resource manager. The wide variety of careers that are chosen every year continues to astound me.

If you'd like more information about the research we did, all the documents I used with the students are located on the SCC Middle School Library's "Learn" page.

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