Googlizing Research in the Classroom

Research is such a huge part of the Common Core curriculum, not that it hasn’t always been essential for student learning in our classrooms. But if you’re like me, getting kids to research effectively, navigating the web, is a daunting task. I recently had the opportunity to explore the world of Google and plan a workshop with my amazing colleague, Cheryl McGee. We were instructed to show a group of educators how to teach kids to research. Racking our brains, we came up with these steps:

Before you begin:

Take some time to discuss the following with students:

  • Check for Reliable Sources: teach students what sources are reliable. Mention domain names (.gov, .org) and sites you wish for them to avoid (wikis,, etc.)
  • Use Advanced Search Tools if Necessary: You might want to introduce students to the “search tools” options. The time an article was posted or the reading level might be beneficial for your assignment.

Research Time:

  1. Brainstorm Essential Questions: Get your students to focus their research. Have them come up with three questions (works well in a five paragraph essay) or more of what they are looking to understand.
  2. List Keywords: Breaking down the essential question into keywords will encourage a more focused search.
  3. Create a Note-taking Document: Have students create a new Google Doc. Rename it immediately the topic and “Notes” (ie. Saturn Notes)
  4. Type in Essential Questions: Students should write their questions on the document, allowing space between each.
  5. Open Google Research Tool: This Google Tool will become your student’s best collaborator. Type in Keywords of each essential questions.
  6. Open Reliable Web Pages: Students should sift through the research on the suggested web pages, (it will open a new tab) finding the information that answers their essential questions.
  7. Copy and Paste in Notes Document: Under each essential question, students should copy from the webpage, and paste the information into their “Notes” Doc (tab should still be open). This will allow students to just gather information relevant to their search, but also drop the URL in the footnotes section. (More on that later!) Students should continue gathering research until they feel they have enough to adequately answer their essential questions.
  8.  Print Notes: Blasphemy! I thought we were going paperless? At this point, I find it best for students to come to my class with a paper version of their notes. Here I would talk to them about taking the information and making it their own, you know, NOT PLAGIARIZING!
  9. The Rest of the Writing Process: Here you would do all that good stuff about good introductions, thesis, strong paragraphs with evidence, conclusion, blah, blah blah. But this blog isn’t about that. So back to the computers we go!
  10. Create a Bibliography: Easybib is absolutely brilliant. I mean, why would anyone want to do all that nonsense himself? Students have all the URLs from their note-taking document. Simply copy and paste into Easybib and Viola! A bibliography. Keep in mind Easybib is an Add-on, so it will need to be installed. It really is the easiest citation generator.

Researching the internet can be a crazy endeavor. Teaching kids to do it can be even worse. Getting them to focus and explicitly giving them skills in which to do it is the answer. This is one way, one tool in the ol’ tool belt, to navigate the enormity of the world wide web. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

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