Saturday, February 27, 2010

Imagination is the Key

In thinking about the importance of NEA’s Read Across America Day, I am reminded of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Theador Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). As teachers, we all wear many hats, and sometimes we don’t realize how many hats we are wearing and the sheer scope of what we are trying to teach to our students. No matter what “hat” we are wearing or what subject we are teaching at the time, reading is the fundamental skill for our students’ success in that subject. Reading is the most basic of the 21st century skills our students need today to excel in “The School of Life” after graduation. This March, let’s allow Dr. Seuss to inspire us all to bring the kind of fun and imagination into our classrooms that he brings into his stories. After all, “the brains in our head” are so important; we need to make sure to have fun filling them with important information in school!

Dr. Seuss was passionate about literacy. He created fanciful characters and imaginative stories to bring fun into reading for beginning and advanced readers alike. Reading Rockets, a national multimedia project for teaching kids to read, brings this passion for literacy and the love of reading to their programs and resources. Joann highlighted some of these resources this week in honor of Read Across America Day. They offer fun, cross-curricular activities that can be used to inspire readers in many different grades and subjects. The activities tie original and playful themes from Dr. Seuss’s books to important subjects our students are learning in class every day.

If you browse through the Reading Rockets site linked in Joann’s post, you will probably find a valuable Read Across America resource you can implement into your class to do your part to encourage the importance of literacy. In fact, you will most likely find lots activities you like. The hard part is choosing which one to use! There are numerous ideas for primary students. There are lessons to learn about phonics, rhyming, themes, and idea development in writing, to name a few. These activities are presented in fun, hands-on ways that can be very memorable for students. Reading Rockets also has a link to the AdLit site, which has a section with creative activities to engage secondary students. After all, nobody is too old for Dr. Seuss, right? Some of the secondary activities studied Dr. Seuss’s political and environmental views as portrayed in his stories, comparing his work to other authors, and using his themes for original student work.

What happens when we try to bring this focus on reading out of the English classroom? Can we successfully use books by Dr. Seuss in science, social studies, art or physical education? With the resources I looked at on the Reading Rockets site and by searching for “Seuss” on the main Gateway page, I say we can! We can all have fun using a little imagination and unconventional ideas in our classrooms. Here is just a beginning list of some of the activities I found in a search of The Gateway’s materials. There are too many resources to list here; I just wanted to give you a taste of what is out there. Search for yourself, and see!

In Social Studies, you can use The Sneetches to draw students into a lesson on diversity. You can create a mock trial in your classroom based on ideas from Yertle the Turtle. Community building and team work can be stressed in the story of Horton Hears a Who.

Science classes focusing on environmental issues and biodiversity can learn a lot by reading The Lorax. Science students of all levels seem to love making and playing with oobleck, a substance inspired by the book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. (Search oobleck on The Gateway for some recipes-don’t worry it’s easy to make, and I have had fun making it with kids from preschool to high school!)

For schools that are creating school-wide celebrations for Read Across America, or for P.E. teachers who want to tie into the theme in their own classes, there is a plan for an entire field day event based on Dr. Seuss books. On this topic, if any of you are P.E. teachers or know P.E. teachers, let them know about The Gateway, too. I have come across lots of great physical activities that could bring a little extra variety into these lessons, too.

The activities for secondary students went a lot more in-depth into the themes Dr. Seuss created. One involves writing an op-ed piece trying to convince someone to try a new, strange food ala Green Eggs and Ham. Another focuses on psychoanalytic criticism introduced in the book The Cat and the Hat (and we thought it was a book just for kids!) The Butter Battle Book can serve as a whimsical foray into the use of satire in writing.

If your students are like many others, the way to their heart is food! There are plenty of ideas for bringing food into the celebration. It can be as basic as serving goldfish while you read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to your class. Students can decorate cupcakes to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Maybe you can even whip up a batch of green eggs and ham (yum!). It can also be really fun to have students look through the books and find a food they would like to recreate. They can do this for homework and bring it in to share with the class.

Read Across America is a day is to celebrate reading, but the focus on reading and the imagination it can create will easily spread into all subject areas. As I searched The Gateway for the vast resources available on the subject, I realized that Dr. Seuss can still teach us just about anything! Let’s all try to incorporate this theme somewhere in our classrooms this week to spark some imaginations and put the FUN back in reading.

~Peggy's Corner~

Explore for more resources.

Read Across America

March 2, 2010 marks the 12th year of Read Across America, the innovative reading awareness program created by the National Education Association. Schools, libraries, community centers, and other organizations celebrate the day by hosting events that promote children’s reading. March 2 was chosen as the annual date as a way to honor beloved children’s author Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. At our local schools, students (and many teachers) dress up, don striped Cat in the Hat head gear, listen to visiting authors, hold readers’ theaters, and otherwise fete the sheer joy of reading. Reading Rockets, whose resources are featured this week, is a national multimedia project offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many kids struggle with reading, and how parents and teachers can help. The project is an educational initiative of WETA, the leading public radio and television station in Washington, DC. Reading Rockets is a national partner of the Read Across America project.

Read Across America Resources
Subjects: Reading, English, Language Arts
Grade: Preschool – 4th grade

This collection of resources offers plenty of activities and ideas to help celebrate the pleasure of reading on Read Across America Day (and every other day of the year, too). There are classroom strategies to incorporate Dr. Seuss books into literacy-building activities; e-cards; bookmarks in English and Spanish; videos of the Hooray for Diffendoofer Day authors who were inspired by Dr. Seuss; a video interview with Theodore Geisel's wife, Audrey; and activities to celebrate Dr. Seuss at home.

Family Literacy Bag: Where the Wild Things Are
Subjects: Reading, English, Language Arts
Grade: K-1

This kit allows teachers to create a take-home "literacy bag" so that parents can read and engage with their children. The topic of this particular kit is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and features the classic children’s tale. The kit also contains lists of nonfiction titles about nighttime and fiction titles that emphasize concepts such as dealing with feelings and using your imagination. I like that the kit’s activities and suggested companion book selections are so well-thought-out: combined, the titles completely capture the spirit of Max, his anger, creativity, and the mysteries of night. Nonfiction selections focus on night animals or how nightfall occurs, while the fiction selections offer tales of young children’s changing emotions and their endless capacity for imaginative play and creation. The kit (available in Spanish as well as in English) also contains various resources to encourage hands-on activities for kids and parents to share.

Beginning Readers: Look! I Can Read This!
Subjects: Reading, English, Language Arts
Grade: Pre-school-1st grade

This brief article provides information on emergent readers, and gives a few tips for parents on how to support their children’s early reading efforts in a positive way. The article describes some literacy-related traits of beginning readers, as well as how to read with a beginner. This article - available in Spanish, MS Word, and PDF formats - may be reproduced in newsletters prepared by preschools, elementary schools, or parent organizations.

~Joann's Picks~

Explore for more resources.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Wiki What?

While browsing through the resources Joann highlighted this week in her post, I was struck by two things. First, there is a huge amount of free technology available to educators who want to bring 21st century tools into their classrooms. Second, I will need to do some serious research to figure out some of the terminology associated with these great technologies. If you are already incorporating some web-based tools in your class, good for you! Bear with me as I dedicate this column to the tech-newbie’s among us who still have a little (or a lot) to learn to keep up with our students. The internet is quickly becoming a big part of our everyday lives. Our students are using it outside of school, and web-based technology can keep our daily classroom routines fresh and relevant.

Many of the tools Joann referred to in her column this week are known as Web 2.0 tools. While the original internet was focused around the passive viewing of information, Web 2.0 applications allow greater interactivity and collaboration. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, and Wikispaces are sites based on user-generated content and are all examples of Web 2.0 technology. One application that is used by many teachers is a wiki. This type of website allows for collaboration between many authors, i.e. students in a classroom. Students and teachers in a class can upload files, embed multimedia presentations, and post images on a class wiki as the school year progresses. You can control the privacy settings to allow the content to only be visible to members of your class. K-12 teachers can create wikis for free on sites like Wikispaces. This type of technology and collaboration can be very useful for generating discussion and sharing ideas between students and teachers. Wikis are pretty simple to set up, even if you don’t have any website building experience.

Our Gateway members are at all different levels of technology integration. Have you already created a wiki for your class? Are you interested in creating one, or do you want to focus on other areas of technology? Do you currently use any Web 2.0 applications to augment your teaching? If we can work together and share ideas, we will be able to bring these types of applications into our classrooms much more easily. I will be posting questions on Facebook and Twitter over the next few weeks to see what technology you have incorporated, which new applications you want to add in your classroom, and what might be holding you back from implementing certain technologies. Be sure to follow us there, and chime in to let us know what you think! Your questions, comments, and successes in all areas of 21st century skills are a crucial piece of the Gateway. You are the driving force behind the resources we highlight and discuss every week.

I created a word cloud on by pasting in the text of this column.  This is an example of a quick and easy way to integrate technology into a lesson. I discovered the Wordle application on Jose Picardo’s A-Z Internet Resources for Education (See Joann’s column for the link). This is a very interesting exercise to assign, since students will have fun getting creative with the design of the words, and it helps show the important terms in a particular piece of writing. This word cloud only took about five minutes to create, and wouldn’t take very much advance preparation by a teacher.

This week, I challenge you to look over the resources Joann has presented in her Tech Tools post. Find a new type of technology that you might be able to use in class, and think about how you will implement it this week, this month, or even this year. You may want to have your students create a word cloud like the one I created on Wordle to turn in with an assigned essay. You can have your students create a cartoon strip with an application like ToonDoo instead of a book report. If you are thinking about assigning posters, try out Glogster, where students can create multimedia online posters. If you have a class wiki, you can even embed them there! Voki can be neat, too. Students create avatars and record their own voices. The avatars can present the information for them! All of these examples were pulled from this week’s highlighted resources on the Gateway. Take some time to browse through them yourself. I think you will find some really neat ideas.

~Peggy's Corner~

Teacher Tools

Teachers are very aware that education in the 21st century demands time-honored practices coupled with the innovative use of technology. The Internet and the abundance of digital tools available can help facilitate learning in a way that was unimaginable to earlier generations. This week’s picks focus on digital tools sites created by educators who are passionate about using new forms of technology creatively in the classroom. So, tap into your (virtual) inner MacGyver with the arsenal of tech tools offered through these sites, and enjoy the ride.

WSD’s eToolBox: Choosing the Right Tools
Subjects: Teaching, Technology
Grade: Teachers

Need to punch up a presentation or introduce wikis to your classroom? This handy virtual toolkit allows teachers to consult a chart to help determine which types of tech tools or resources they can use for lessons and projects. The eToolBox presents a list of available applications and/or sites with links to those tools, plus a lot more. One of the things that I like about this site is that it’s one-stop shopping for great ideas for integrating technology into the classroom. It’s like a Swiss Army knife of technology tools right at your fingertips. eToolBox is a great example of teachers tapping into the power of wikis and similar media to promote and share creative technology ideas in the classroom. eToolBox is a project of the Wissahickon School District in suburban Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, located about 22 miles north of Philadelphia.

Web 2.0: Cool Tools for Schools
Subjects: Teaching, Technology
Grade: Teachers

This ever-growing list offers educational Web 2.0 tools to help teachers at all grade levels locate resources and ideas for the classroom. Web 2.0 tools are listed under various categories, such as organizing tools, mapping tools, research tools, audio applications, and much more. What I like about this particular wiki is that many of the tools have tutorials or examples on how the resources work, as well as brief comments about the sites themselves. You can scan through the categories, and immediately target those apps that are appropriate for your needs. This wiki is the brainchild of Lenva Shearing, who is Deputy Principal at Bucklands Beach Intermediate School, a middle school in Auckland, New Zealand.

A-Z Internet Resources for Education
Subjects: Teaching, Technology
Grade: Teachers

A-Z Internet Resources for Education rounds out my trio of educational tech tools picks this week because of its currency and scope. The site is continually updated, and founder Jose Picardo announces updates via his  page. Picardo is the Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Nottingham High School in the UK, where he teaches Spanish and German, and he’s obviously passionate about using technology creatively in schools. The resources on the list are mostly free, with brief descriptions provided. There are well over 100 resources listed as of this writing, with plenty of tools to choose from for effectively using technology with your students. I do wish the resources were grouped by category and not alphabetically, but then, the resource wouldn’t be called “A-Z Internet Resources,” now, would it?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Creating Innovators

One of my favorite aspects of teaching is seeing how creative my students can be. So often, I teach my students a specific process that they need to follow. If they stick to that process, they will come up with the answer I am looking for. This is a very important skill for them, since they need to understand the procedure for working through problems. I am always glad when they can do this, but there is an “aha!” moment as a teacher when they solve problems in new ways. To create the next generation of innovators and inventors, we are going to have to stress the importance of creative thinking and problem solving in our classrooms.

We have all heard the saying, “Think outside the box.” Many of us would love to encourage our students to do this, but it can be difficult to integrate this type of skill development in our every day lessons. Design Squad from PBS hits the nail on the head by combining activities that teach important concepts in a way that allows students to use creativity and have fun with problem solving. Students are not going through the motions to solve a problem with one “correct” answer. They are working like engineers to find the best possible solution for a challenge. There is brainstorming, trial and error, testing, and discussion at the end to evaluate the failures and successes. Hopefully, students will realize that using knowledge to solve problems can be fun!

Regardless of the subject or grade level you teach, activities like these may find a very important place in your classroom. You may not be a science teacher looking for activities to teach your students about scientific principles like buoyancy, types of energy and solar power. The Design Squad activities teach these concepts well, but they also teach the process of creative problem solving, which is important in all subject areas. . Check out all of the Design Squad resources on the Gateway. You just might find one that will be perfect to liven up your classroom this month.

Don’t pass over resources just because the target age range doesn’t fit your students. Adapting them to your class could be easier than you think. Take the activities one step further and assign a project at home to build on the ideas students learned during the in-class activity. One teacher suggested having your students come up with new challenges themselves. Your class can brainstorm challenge ideas that cover specific topics you are learning in class. You might spend some class time in groups working on solutions. Students can then coordinate outside of class to come up with a final solution for their challenge. When you test the solutions, be sure to discuss the process students’ used to come up with their final solution. I always like to reward creative points for solutions that really took students out on a limb.

Make sure your students “sell” their project to the class. You can let your students choose how they want to do this. Maybe they can create a skit or short video. Maybe they want to create a magazine ad. There are lots of ways they can present it, but it is important for them to be excited about the solution they came up with. We want them to share this enthusiasm with their peers. When students can “own” their learning like this, it can be really fun and rewarding for the teacher, too.

I challenge you to integrate some discovery activities like the ones from Design Squad into your classroom. Try one of the activities Joann picked this week, or search the Gateway to find one that fits your needs even better. See how creative problem solving can change the dynamics of learning for you and your students. Let us know what works and doesn’t work for you. We are excited to hear how it goes!

~Peggy's Corner~

The Not-So-Geek Squad

With 3 kids of various ages, it’s pretty difficult to find a TV show that’s both age-appropriate and entertaining for them all. Terrific, then, that one day we happened to stumble upon Design Squad, a Peabody Award-winning reality competition series on PBS where teen contestants tackle engineering challenges for an actual client. My kids were all immediately engrossed in the show: the squabbling stopped, quiet ensued, and I avoided a date with some Extra-Strength Tylenol. Bliss! Design Squad’s mission is to attract kids to engineering and inventing, and to this end has created a host of science activities, teacher’s guides, and other resources to help students flex their design process skills while learning science and engineering concepts. Materials are available in both English and Spanish.

Subjects: Engineering, Physical Sciences
Age: 9-12

Think you can build an unsinkable boat out of straws and plastic wrap? While you’re at it, make it hold 25 pennies for at least 10 seconds before sinking. That’s right – it’s not as easy as it sounds. This activity has students test various boat designs while learning about buoyancy, weight distribution, and displacement. I like that this activity is completely hands-on, and that kids need to use various problem-solving methods in order to come up with designs that enable them to float their boats effectively.

Kicking Machine
Subjects: Engineering, Physical Sciences
Age: 9-12

In this activity, students design and build two machines that can reliably kick balls across the room. What I like about this activity is that kids have to think about different types of energy – potential energy, stored energy, kinetic energy - and what types of design (pendulum or rubber band-launching systems) that will give them the most bang for their buck. Bonus points if they can get the machine to bend it like Beckham. I also love the comprehensiveness of the Design Squad guides and leader notes. For one thing, they anticipate problems that some students may experience due to design mistakes or other matters, and provide solutions to help kids get back on course.

Feel the Heat
Subjects: Engineering, Physical Sciences, Space sciences
Age: Grades 9-12

The heat is on! This challenge, part of a Design Squad-NASA on the Moon guide, has students heat things up by building a solar hot water heater. The activity also asks kids to think about how NASA might use solar-powered heating on the moon. What’s cool about this resource is how chock-full of information it is without droning on and on. Aside from the instructions on how to design and build the water heaters, the activity includes safety tips, extension activities, fun little factoids, discussion aids, and a whole lot more.

~Joann's Picks~

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hold The Phone: Is This Math Class?

As educators, we have the responsibility of constantly adapting our teaching styles to best meet the needs of our ever-changing groups of students. As technology evolves, we need to modify the technology we bring into the classroom. If we are still only using pencils and paper in our classrooms, we are missing some very important tools that are available to our students. John Dewey said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

In an answer to Joann’s call for more resources, I have done some research on the topic of using cell phones as mathematics instructional tools. Using cell phones in class is kind of a sticky subject, since many schools discourage the use of cell phones altogether. A lot of students own them, though, and an increasing number of educators are realizing the value of embracing this technology rather than banning it completely from the school environment. I am still undecided about how I feel about using cell phones in my own classroom, but I thought these articles were great discussion-starters on the topic. Please leave a comment about how you feel about this technology.

The following article paints a picture of how cell phones can be beneficial tools for a variety of subjects. Click here to read “Teachers Begin Using Cell Phones for Class Lessons,” an Associated Press article from November 2009. (  Many teens from all different socioeconomic backgrounds own cell phones. For those who don’t, there are probably enough kids in the class who have phones to be able to use them in group activities. In this article, they discuss using cell phones in scavenger hunts, and using them to text answers to a polling website. Technology-savvy teachers can get the quick feedback we used to get by using slates, and the kids get to (gasp!) text during class.

Math4Mobile, a project of The University of Haifa, created some free graphing applications for cell phones that might be a really nice addition for teaching math concepts that are sometimes hard for students to visualize. Information about the project can be found here: We are in the process of adding this resource to The Gateway, so you will be able to access it that way as well.

Project K’Nect, an initiative funded by Qualcomm, provided smart phones to students in low-income schools. They developed math curricula around the use of mobile phones. You can read about the project here.  This project was successful at using the phones as tools in well-planned activities and units.

Throughout all of these articles, a common theme of using cell phones as learning tools built on the fact that the students actually use the communication capabilities of the phones to aid their learning. They are not just using them as calculators. They can collaborate through text messages, even combining data to form graphs together. When one student is stuck, another could guide them through the problems through texting, talking, or even creating short instructional videos. It’s what many of them do after school. It’s fun for them to text with friends and create YouTube videos. What if our students can use these skills to teach each other?

This topic might be controversial in many districts, especially those with cell phone bans in place. As one of the most widespread forms of technology used by our students today, using cell phones to aid in instruction may be helpful for creating lessons that “stick.” On the other hand, it might not work in your school. What do you think? Have you tried using cell phones as a tool in your classroom? Have you tried another tool for math instruction that really engaged your students? We would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.

~Peggy's Corner~

A Call to (Math) Arms

We recently heard from teacher MCN who asked for math lessons using iPods or cell phones. This turned out to be a tall order: while there are companies popping up all over offering fee-based math games for cells and iPods, there aren’t currently a lot of good freely available resources. So, hear ye, hear ye, I’m issuing an official call – I’d like to know about free math lessons/apps you’ve created for iPods or cells; links appreciated. In the meantime, some offerings:

The Tangent Function
Subjects: Math, Trigonometry
Grade: 10-12

The tangent of an angle is the ratio of the length of the opposite side to the length of the adjacent side. Well, alrighty, then. While this concept may click immediately with some students, others (like me) might need some extra support. This 2 minute, 55-second math animation can be downloaded to an iPod with video capabilities and used to coach students through the tangent function. This animation is offered by mathtutor, which is comprised of a group of UK teachers, mathematicians and new media producers from the Universities of Leeds, Loughborough and Coventry and the EBS Trust.

Math Snacks: Bad Date
Subjects: Math, Proportions, Ratios
Grade: 5-8

This is one bad date that you’ll actually want to stick around for. This “math snack” is a brief (less than 10 minutes) animation that humorously visualizes the ratio of words spoken on a series of dates. It can be viewed online, or downloaded to an iPod or iPhone. Besides the humor and the engaging graphics, I like that this resource also has learner and teacher guides available with extension activities, discussion points, and more. If downloaded to an iPod, it can be viewed repeatedly at a student’s discretion. Math Snacks are the brainchildren of the New Mexico State University Media Productions department, which offer dynamic educational media developed by its award-winning team of faculty, animators, game and web designers, videographers, programmers, and artists.

Linear & Exponential Growth Poetry
Subjects: Math, Algebra, Writing
Grade: 6-12

Remember “My Hero, Zero”? If you grew up in the 1970s, you’ve hit pay dirt with this lesson. Using Schoolhouse Rock videos and footage from a classic Coke commercial, this lesson teaches students about the differences between linear and exponential growth. I like that this is a cross-curricular activity combining those two unlikely bedfellows, math and language arts. Students fill in the numbers they hear in the songs, with the idea that they see how fast exponential growth (geometric, multiplying) grows as opposed to linear (arithmetic, adding). The videos can be downloaded to iPods and used outside the classroom. This lesson is provided by NumberFix, part of the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Writing Across the Curriculum workshops for teachers that is designed to inspire writing about math in the classroom.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Critical Thinking in The 21st Century Classroom

Teachers have the responsibility of giving students the skills they will need to thrive in the world after graduation. Historically, these skills revolved around reading, writing, and arithmetic. Organizations like The Partnership for 21st Century skills are urging educators to meld those important core competencies with the essential 4 C’s (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation).

As Dr. Peter Facione more eloquently put it, “Education is nothing more, nor less, than learning to think!” In the 21st century, we are inundated with information coming at us from a multitude of sources. There are emails telling us of new scams to avoid. Our GPS tells us where the traffic is and the best alternate route. Great new apps on our phones let us keep up with friends we hardly remember on facebook, while we learn of all the latest current events in the world wherever we have cell phone coverage! If we are feeling bored, we can play a few games on our handheld video game systems. Our exercises are tracked by little chips in our shoes that report to our ipods and to an online site. There is hardly a time in the day when we are not finding and sending information through one type of technology or another. With all this information around us, it is important for our students to learn to use it wisely. Critical thinking will prove to be a key 21st century skill for successful members of our society.

The internet is a major source of information for students and teachers. We can learn about almost any subject we can think of just by typing it into the search bar of our computer. We need our students to be able to look at this information critically and separate fact from fiction. What good is a huge bank of knowledge when a student has not been trained how to deal with that knowledge effectively?

We can teach our students to use the internet effectively and to use critical thinking skills at a very young age. If students grow up understanding how to decipher fact from fiction on the internet, it will be second nature for them to use this lifelong tool. Joann’s Picks this week are great activities designed for students to practice using internet research. The topics of the activities can be tweaked to fit into many different subject areas. There are also some neat enrichment activities for younger students here that teach students how to use critical thinking in their every day lives.  If students can think for themselves, the knowledge they gain in school will be much more useful in their lives.

After teaching internet skills in your classroom, your students will be able to do self-directed internet research projects. These activities can allow students the freedom to choose their own topics, within your boundaries. That seems to be really fun for them, since they don’t always have control over what they are learning. The students are discovering new things for themselves, a great way to make the learning stick! If they do a creative presentation at the end of the project, they will learn even more by teaching the rest of the class. If you really let them be creative in their presentations, they can be a lot of fun to watch, too. I have even had each student make up a few questions covering their material to include in a quiz at the end of the presentations.

We are currently in the process of adding more wonderful resources to the Gateway, so keep checking back. Do you teach internet research or critical thinking skills in your classroom? We would love to hear your success stories. Our goal to create thinkers for tomorrow starts with great ideas to teach these important concepts today.

Internet Research Skills

“Basic research is what I am doing when I don’t know what I am doing”

– Wernher von Braun

Recently, we received a request to cover research skills in the classroom. While many lessons offer a research component, there appear to be very few K-12 schools requiring research skills as a core competency. In the 21st century, shouldn’t we require students to be fluent in research methods upon graduation, instead of waiting until college where many students have to scramble to learn these skills (or not) on the fly? Feel free to discuss on our Facebook and Twitter pages. In the meantime, here are some resources for the classroom.

Internet Research Assistant
Subjects: Information Literacy, Research skills
Grade: 9-12

Interested in putting your students to work? In this extended activity, students become Internet Research Assistants to school staff or to other members of the community. Tackling any topic, students must use various search engines, evaluate Web sites and the information they find, and cite their sources. This lesson, written by Janice Kesel of the Waverly Community School District (MI) is aligned to Michigan state standards.

I like that this lesson has real-world applications. Students provide a service to someone in their local community by researching a subject or problem and packaging the data for presentation to their “client,” which is exactly what professional researchers do. This activity could also make for a good community service project.

Wading Through The Web: Teaching Internet Research Strategies
Subjects: Language Arts, Research skills
Grade: 6-8

Just because it’s on the Internet, it must be reliable information, right? In this lesson, students learn to evaluate and cite Internet sites in their quests to become more effective and efficient researchers. What I like about this lesson is that students get hands-on experience conducting Internet research, as well as learning the differences between various types of both traditional and non-traditional research materials. Offered by ReadWriteThink, a project of the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, this peer-reviewed lesson is aligned to NCTE/IRA Content Standards.

Internet Investigations: Unsolved Mysteries
Subjects: Information literacy, Research skills, Language Arts
Grade: 4-5

So, the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot were sailing in the Bermuda Triangle when…..What? You’ve heard this one already? Oh. Well, nevermind. Anyway, in this lesson, students become Internet gumshoes as they uncover what’s fact and what’s fiction in a variety of unsolved mysteries. Students use a variety of print and online resources to research topics and evaluate their sources of information. One of the things that I like about this lesson is that students are required to sift through conflicting information accounts, and use their reasoning skills to form their own opinions as to the veracity of each mystery. This lesson was created by Ruth Sunda at Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary School in Chandler, Arizona.