Friday, March 15, 2013

On Being a Discriminating Searcher

I have been diligently working on taking my students through the ranks of learning to look for information and understand what they are seeing on the Internet. Here is a short list of ideas from Kindergarten through third grade. I will come back soon and write about our fourth and fifth grade projects. Finally I will conclude the article with sixth through eighth grade.

We learn to use the mouse. I think things are coming full circle. Ten years ago, many Kindergarten students had a hard time operating a mouse. Then it became a skill I really didn't need to teach. This year, I am finding many Prek-3 through Kindergarten students don't understand the right and left mouse button. I think it is a result of so many tablet devices and smartphones. We begin the year with the adorable Headsprout Mousing Around site. As time passes, we learn to navigate the Internet through Starfall's ABC page. This year, for the first time, I found the free for teachers The students are enthralled with it. It is free to private and public school teachers at this time (Spring 2013). You can share premium content that the students can use at home with the help of their parents.

We begin to use the Internet to practice spelling words at Spelling City. The students learn to carefully read the words on the screen to find the links to move between lesson choices and practice levels. I followed the basic idea in a lesson plan on Common Sense's Sites I Like Lesson (formerly The students use the All About Me portion of and then rate the site. We followed that lesson up by creating a bar graph in Kidspiration with the paper survey data from the Sites I Like lesson. 

I use my Little Explorer's Picture Dictionary lesson to teach the students how to find answers on a web page by reading clues about birds and scanning the page for pictures of birds. We learn to choose a state from the list at Fact Monster's Fifty States page. The classroom teacher has the students find various facts about a state. They practice scanning the page for the key words and carefully copy the answer to their worksheet. It is important to learn to accurately copy the answer - including capitalization. Finally the students work to find answers to a biographical reading exercise when they follow a cloze activity for an assigned person.

The third grade students participate in a snail mail project called The Great Mail Race. The students are assigned multiple states. The teacher likes pairing up the students with a Catholic school. In advance, I populate a wiki page with two different Catholic schools per state. This helps us complete the activity in a 42-minute class period. The children look at the web page for each school and then they copy down the school's name and address. This extends their work on accurately copying information from the second grade lesson. The letter will not get to the other school if the address is incorrect. They try to find out what the children's uniform and school building looks like. They find out what activities the school has for the students. We use Little Explorer's Picture Dictionary States page to find what their state's capital is on a map. Next they follow the Facts, Maps, and Symbols link to the left of the map to answer an information sheet for their teacher. One year we had the students do a little tourism research.

Heading to Fourth and Fifth Grade
These projects get the students ready for more extensive web page reading, scanning, and analysis of what they find. It prepares them for the future middle school skills that include analyzing the strengths and weakness of web pages based on criteria; creating a Wikipedia entry to understand that site; and understanding copyright, Creative Commons, and public domain content.

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