“Hey Siri, what makes a desert habitat unique?”
The answer to a complex question like that isn’t something Siri can answer so easily. The problem is that students are using this Siri driven searching method every time they go online. Typing long or complex questions into Google is a bad habit that needs to be broken in order to get the best search results for student research.
Grade 4 had a full period of practice on Thursday and it is already making a big difference in how they are approaching this task.
We first talked about the importance of being specific with our search terms. Ari and Keira helped our grade 4s to get the idea with their tutorial.
Students were given a worksheet containing several long questions and asked to figure out what would be the most specific keywords to get the best results. It was important for me to continually remind them that they don’t need to type a question in Google to get results.
1. My dog is digging holes in the backyard. Is that because they are looking for bones?
Specific keywords to get a clear answer: dog digging
2. My friend just cheated at chess, what are the rules?
Specific keywords to get a clear answer: chess rules or rules of chess
We then gave students a research question:
Are video games addictive? Can they affect child behaviour?
Students had to come up with all of the possible keywords and keyword combinations (called a query) on a whiteboard that would yield great search results for a paper on the topic.
Some of those were;
video games and addiction
children and video games
child behaviour and video games
video games and emotions
children and addiction and video games
Asking students to practice these skills with a daily in-class question is a great way to give them practice in this more precise way of searching. Through regular practice they will learn how to get meaningful results and this will improve the quality of their work overall.