We had a very successful day writing a report on scurvy. It wasn't always so easy. Report writing used to be a dreaded chore, a monster to be battled, rather than the exercise in research and organization that it should be. Thanks to Julie Bogart at Bravewriter, the monster has been slain in our home school. I wanted to share our process with others who might be struggling with this.
- Choose a topic that is interesting to the student: We are studying pirates and needed a science topic, so we chose scurvy. Why? Superboy wanted to know what his pirate name, Scurvy Dog, meant.
- Read all about it: We went on the internet and just read and explored the topic to get a feel for what it was all about.
- Take notes: I asked Superboy to make a list of 10-12 interesting or important facts about what he read. I had him leave plenty of room between the facts and made sure he wrote them in his own words (paraphrasing).
- Organize: We cut the sheets of facts into strips and put them on the floor. Then we rearranged them several times until they fell naturally into an order that made sense to Superboy. Then we taped them together (see picture).
- Polish it up: We read through the facts out loud and he added connecting words (transitions) to make it sound better. Then he typed it up on the computer and we did a spelling and grammar check.
- The hook: He added an introduction and conclusion that related to why we were interested in the topic to begin with-pirates. This is the easiest place for him to get creative and let his voice ring through.
Not including the reading, all this took maybe an hour or less. No fuss and a wonderful finished product. Is it a masterpiece? No, but that wasn't the point. The goal I have for Superboy at his age is just to become familiar with the process. To understand that elementary report writing is about gathering information and organizing it in a way that makes sense. I think he is well on his way.
Here is the finished product:
Scurvy: Plague of the Sea
Important things for pirates aren’t just guns and ammunition, gunpowder and swords, silver and gold. They are also fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit to prevent scurvy.
Scurvy is a disease that has affected travelers and solders for centuries. Scurvy limited boat trips because it would kill many passengers. In fact, Magellan lost 80% of his men because of scurvy while crossing the Pacific. Not until 1932 was it discovered that scurvy was caused by not enough vitamin C. In fact it only takes 3 months of vitamin C deficiency to cause the symptoms of scurvy. Theses symptoms are corkscrew hair, bleeding under the skin, joint pain, and gum disease. Untreated scurvy can be fatal, but luckily it is easy to treat. Scurvy is treated by normal vitamin C intake like eating oranges, lemons, and limes. Scurvy grass got it name by its ability to cure scurvy. Captain Cook, the famous explorer, kept his men free of scurvy by feeding them sour-kraut and portable soup. The use of limes by the British Royal Navy gave the nickname “limey” for a British sailor. In modern times scurvy is not common except for in very poor places where the people don’t get much nutrition.
So, if you want to be a successful pirate, bring fresh fruit and vegetables on long voyages. That way you won’t end up a scurvy dog.