Research Three Ways | Facing History & Ourselves
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Research Three Ways

Students learn about the different ways of researching by choosing a historical or contemporary issue in the text that interests them.


At a Glance

activity copy


English — US


  • English & Language Arts


  • Culture & Identity


About This Learning Experience

Reading and discussing literature provides an exciting opportunity for students to engage with historical and contemporary issues that matter to them. When they learn about events and issues central to (and on the periphery of) a text, they develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the narrative, as well as the world today. Furthermore, the connections between past and present and between text and real life invite an exploration of rich questions about human behavior, choices and consequences, justice and fairness. 

The following learning experiences support students as they research a historical or contemporary issue in the text that interests them. They will seek out and analyze sources from a range of genres in order to hone their literary analysis skills, deepen their understanding of context, and gain insight into additional perspectives on the events taking place in the text and in their own world. These skills and habits of mind are important for today’s young adults, who are growing up as citizens in an ever-changing, digitally connected world. 

In order to deepen their understanding of the text, themselves, each other, and the world, students will . . .

  • Engage with real and imagined stories that help them understand their own coming-of-age experiences and how others experience the world.
  • Read critically and ethically to understand thematic development, characterization, conflict, and craft in order to make personal and real-world connections between the text and their lives.
  • Identify examples of injustice in the literature they read and in the world today. Examine how an individual’s identity, group membership, and relationship to systems of inequity can impact their sense of who they are and their agency when faced with a moral dilemma or choice.
  • Make real-world connections that explore historical and contemporary contexts in literature.
  • Conduct research in different mediums to build understanding of the core text, themselves, and the world.
  • Analyze and integrate information presented in diverse media and formats.
  • Present information and supporting evidence orally and in writing so the audience can follow the line of reasoning.

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before using this learning experience, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

Facing History learning experiences are classroom-ready activities that you can incorporate into your lesson plans. They are designed to be modular and adaptable, so you can use them over and over again with a wide range of texts to help students explore characterization, point of view, perspective taking, setting, and thematic development through a Facing History lens.

This learning experience is divided into three sections—Introduce, Explore, and Extend—which increase in complexity and depth of analysis, but they don’t need to be used in sequence. The entry point depends on students’ familiarity with the concept and the level of complexity they are ready to tackle. Educators might choose to incorporate just one section into a lesson plan, teach all three over the course of one or two class periods, mix and match, or repeat one multiple times during a unit to help students track character or thematic development.

  1. Introduce: The first activity introduces a concept and helps students develop the schema they will need for deeper exploration. It may involve vocabulary work, schema building, and opportunities for personal reflection and pair–shares.
  2. Explore: The second activity engages students in a deeper exploration of the concept and helps them apply it to the core text of the unit. It includes opportunities for close reading, literary analysis, collaboration with peers, and rich questions for small-group and whole-class discussion about the text and how it connects to the real world.
  3. Extend: The third activity invites students to produce a reflective, expository, analytical, or creative piece of writing (or other form of expression) in order to explore connections between the text, key concepts from the learning experience, and/or their own lives.

If you want to spend more time identifying and discussing social issues in your text, consider starting with the Facing History learning experience Making Contemporary Connections to Literature, which lays the groundwork for the Explore and Extend sections of this learning experience. 

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  1. Have students identify and reflect on historical and contemporary events or issues in the text that interest them. Start by modeling with your own ideas from a different text that the class has studied so that students understand the task and what you mean by event and issue. 
  2. Then ask students to respond to the following prompt in their journals: 
    • Make a list of three to five historical or contemporary events or issues that occur in the text that you find interesting.
    • Share your list with a partner, adding to your own list as any new ideas arise.
    • Choose one idea from your list and respond in writing to the following questions:
      • What interests you about this event or issue?
      • Where do you see yourself and/or people you may know in this event or issue? 
      • What questions do you have about this event or issue?
  3. Invite students to share their ideas with the class, making a list on the board of the events and issues that interest them, as well as their questions. 

In a research project that students can work on as they read the text, or as a summative activity, have them choose one historical or contemporary event or issue to learn about from three different types of sources: an informational text, a personal account or op-ed, and a non-print source. 

  1. Explain the task and pass out the Research Three Ways Evidence Log handout. Depending on your students’ experience with research, you may need to provide them with a list of sources, as well as clarify how you would like them to record notes and cite their sources. 
    • Source #1: Read a short informational text, such as a newspaper or magazine article.
    • Source #2: Read a personal account or opinion piece, such as a blog post, op-ed, written interview, personal narrative, or primary source document.
    • Source #3: Engage with a text that is not written, such as a podcast, video, work of art, mural, song, or spoken-word poem.
  2. After students have conducted their research, have them reflect on any new understanding by answering one of the following questions in their journals. Depending on whether your students researched a historical or more contemporary event or issue, you may need to adapt the questions. 
    • What new, different, or deeper understanding do you have about an aspect of the text (a character, the setting, a conflict, a theme) and about the world today as a result of your research? Which source was most influential to you? What makes you say that? 
    • How does your research confirm, challenge, or change your ideas about an event or issue in the text and in the world today? What makes you say that? 
    • If you researched an issue, what can people do to address this issue in the world today? How can your research and the text help you answer this question?
    • I used to think . . . [about an aspect of the text and my world]. As a result of my research, I now think . . . Which source was most influential to you? What makes you say that?

Give students the opportunity to share highlights from their research and new understanding of the text with their peers. Teaching strategies like Concentric Circles or Give One, Get One support students as they engage in discussions with a range of partners: rather than present once, students share multiple times and can make adjustments to improve the organization and clarity of their presentation. To work on active listening, have students record their peers’ ideas on a handout that you create. Then, as a class, discuss patterns and any new understanding that emerged through the research.

Using the evidence they gathered from their research and the text, perhaps on the Research Three Ways Evidence Log handout, have students plan, revise, and edit a written response that explains how the issue or event they researched connects to or sheds light on the core text by illuminating an aspect of characterization, setting, conflict, or theme.

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Facing History & Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

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