English | Instruction

Historic Landmarks: Research and Writing

Instruction

Students will research and write about a historic landmark, the Seagram Building in New York City. This lesson builds research and writing skills, enabling students to describe why the Seagram Building is considered a landmark and to discuss its positive and negative influence on the local community and/or the community at large.

Activity 1: The Seagram Building

Seagram Building

  1. Facilitate student discussion about landmarks, so students are able to:
  2. Based on discussion, have students write their own definition of a landmark or create a class definition.
  3. Introduce assignment to students. Explain they will be researching and writing about a historic landmark, the Seagram Building, describing why the building is considered a landmark and discussing its positive and negative influence on the local community and/or the community at large.
  4. Watch the Seagram Building segment from the PBS special, 10 Buildings that Changed America, on DVD or at wttw.com/10buildings. Prompt students to take notes during the segment.
  5. Facilitate discussion about the Seagram Building segment. Note opportunities for further research. Questions to prompt discussion may include:
    • What makes the Seagram Building a landmark (or not a landmark, if they can support the argument)?
    • How did the Seagram Building affect the neighborhood surrounding it? Consider both positive and negative aspects.
    • How did the Seagram Building impact future development? Consider zoning ordinances and similar architectural designs by Mies van der Rohe and other architects.
  6. In small groups, use ideas from discussion to create thesis statements to share with the class.6.

Activity 2: The Research Assignment

  1. Review or introduce research techniques appropriate for grade level (ask your librarian!).
  2. Explain the assignment: Students will write a research paper (length TBD by teacher) about the Seagram Building describing why the Seagram Building is considered a landmark and discussing its positive and negative influence on the local community and/or the community at large.
  3. Individually, have students prepare to research and write by completing the worksheet titled “English Worksheet.” Provide time for students to research.
  4. In small groups, have students trade thesis statements and discuss:
    • How does the thesis statement address the assignment?
    • Describe three arguments you could make to support the thesis statement.
  5. Individually, have students revise their thesis and arguments based on peer discussion. Collect and provide feedback to students.
  6. Review assignment expectations and provide time for students to do independent research and writing. Provide additional research and writing guidance as needed.

Activity 3: Evaluating and Editing

  1. After students create a thesis statement and find resources to support it, create small groups to discuss what resources they found and which are the most and least reliable. Have the groups share their reasoning with the class. Students should use this list as a guide for finalizing their selection of sources.
  2. After students have written a draft of their paper, have peers review the paper and answer the following questions:
    • What is the thesis statement?
    • Identify the key arguments supporting the thesis. Explain how these arguments work together (or don’t work together) to support the thesis.
    • What else could be added to support the thesis?
    • Are citations provided for every supporting argument? If not, identify what should be cited.
    • What counterarguments could be made in opposition to the thesis? What support do you have for these?
    • Note any grammatical or spelling errors you find.
  3. Collect draft papers and peer feedback. Evaluate peer feedback and provide additional comments on drafts before returning to students for revisions.

Assessment

Assignments are designed to address the standards and learning goals of the lesson. Each assignment is mapped to the appropriate standards and learning goals.

  1. Evaluate and comment on student theses and arguments before they write their first draft.
    • RI.7.1: Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly, as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  2. Review and comment on students’ first draft.
    • W.7.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  3. Review and comment on students’ peer analysis.
    • RI.7.3: Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text.
    • RI.7.8: Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims.
  4. Assess students’ final papers based on their ability to:
    • W.7.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
    • W.7.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources, as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.
    • W.7.8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.