Teaching students to move from the first-person personal narrative to the third-person research paper is difficult. Many students struggle to omit the first-person pronoun from their drafts. They start their sentences with “I believe” and “I know” and “I learned.” Here are a couple strategies to help combat that problem:

  1. Many teachers kick off a research unit by teaching third-person point of view. For some students, simply telling them to cross off any “I’s” in their drafts solves the problem.
  2. When Anne Melby-Morrison (Donald E Gavit Middle/High School in Hammond, IN) notices a student utilizing “I” in his research writing, she asks him what his topic is. Whether it’s the rainforest, the environment, welding, or some other topic, she simply reminds him to use his topic as the subject of his sentences. “You are not the subject of your writing, so don’t use ‘I’ as the subject of your sentences. Make your research topic the subject.” Fabulous suggestion, Anne!
  3. One final strategy, in addition to telling students what words to avoid (I, you, etc.), consider also creating a list of alternative sentence subjects. Depending on the topic these might include scientists, participants, researchers, welders, environmentalists, etc.

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