June 1

Research Skills Continued – Taking Great Notes

How to Take Great Notes for Our Research Project

You are going to watch a video that takes you step by step through the process of taking notes for research.

Use Your Own Words When You Take Notes

One key thing to remember however, is to never copy word for word from a website or book.

During our first research workshop I use the example of a research project I am doing on tigers.  So if this is what the website says:

The short notes on my page might look like this;

-Tigers have an orange coat with dark stripes
-Tigers weigh about 450 pounds
-It has claws as long as house keys
-It is the largest cat in the world

Notice how I didn’t just copy each sentence exactly as it was?  When you copy things exactly, that is called PLAGIARISM and it is a no-no.  We need to try to avoid copying word for word as much as we can.  The only exception is copying down a FACT.  Something that is a fact never changes.  So if it says a tiger weighs 450 pounds, that is what I need to copy down in my notes.  I can’t invent a new number!!

Putting it Together

Once you have a page of notes about your subject, you can start putting your information together in proper sentences and paragraphs without any fear of plagiarism because you wrote little notes in your own words.  Here is what some sentences based on my notes would look like.  Notice how it looks nothing like the paragraph I found online.

Tigers are the biggest cat in the world weighing in at 450 pounds.  They are orange with black stripes.  They also have claws as long as house keys.

Have fun researching your projects.  I can’t wait to read them!

May 27

Grade 2 Research Skills Live Lesson May 27th

When you are given a topic (or subject) for a research paper, what’s the first place you look for information?  How do you search?

HU if you have an answer!

Even though Google is really good at understanding what you are looking for when you type in or ask a long question, lots of websites you will search are not so good at dealing with a long sentence and too many words.  Google and other sites do not need you type a long question in order to get the most specific information for your project.  They just match the most important words in your search with the websites that best match those words.  So the key to finding the information that will be really specific to what you are looking for is keywords.  This is easy to remember, just think THE KEY IS KEYWORDS!

Keywords are the most important words in your search.  Here is an example.  I am doing a project on Tigers and I need to know how much they weigh.  Instead of typing in the question; how much do tigers weigh?  I can just type in the keywords.

How much do tigers weigh?  — KEYWORDS: Tigers Weight

Here is another example.

How many teeth does an adult tiger have?  — KEYWORDS: Tigers teeth

I get my results like magic!!

What if I just want a page of information all about Tigers?  I would type in a very easy easy keyword:  just TIGERS or TIGER FACTS.

We are all going to open up a new tab next to this meeting and try this out for ourselves using the following questions.  Try and figure out how to run your search with just TWO important keywords per question.

Example 1: My dog is digging in the backyard.  Why is it doing this?

Example 2: My friend just cheated at chess.  What are the rules?

Example 3: Who is the author of the Amulet graphic novel series?

Now sometimes to get the best keywords we need to change a word around.  For the next example, does anyone know what the word is for how much money someone makes in a year?

Example 4: How much money does Justin Trudeau make  per year?

If your essential question for your research project is a bit longer, you will need extra keywords in your search.  Here is an example of an essential question that my daughter came up with for her Genius Hour project.  In order to get great results, she will need more than two keywords.

Example 5: How do professional photographers take such great portraits?

Her Keywords: tips for portrait photography OR professional photography tricks for portraits

Remember, sometimes it will take more than one try and sometimes it will take lots of searches with many different keywords to get the best results.  The good thing is, you can try as many times as you need to until you find exactly what you are looking for!

Kid-Friendly Search Engines

We want to find information that is written for kids to use, not big long complicated websites that we struggle to understand.  That is why there are some really excellent kid-friendly search engines that will get us the best results for our project.

Keeping Track of Your Sources

As you go, keep a list of the websites and books you use.  This information could be the last page of your project.  That page is called a BIBLIOGRAPHY.  It lets your teacher know where you found your information.  As you get older you will need to do this in a proper, structured way.  But in earlier grades, keeping a simple list of books and websites you use is enough.  If the webpage address is very long, it might be hard to type out, which is why we can use copy and paste to copy the URL (the address.)

Here is how you do it;

  • Double click on the webpage URL  in the address bar.
  • Click ‘copy’
  • On your bibliography page click ‘paste’

Done!!

Now you have some basic research skill techniques that will make doing any research project easier!

 

 

 

 

 

February 3

Exploring Non-Fiction With Grade 1

Grade 1 visited the library on Friday for a workshop on exploring non-fiction.  We started off by discussing what some of the differences are between fiction and non-fiction, and grade 1 were already ahead of the game there and understood it quite well.  Non-fiction is a book that focuses on real events and real information.  It is a book we use to learn about something in most cases.

We moved on to talking about some unique parts found in most non-fiction books…

  • The table of contents
  • The glossary
  • The index

I showed them some examples of how we could utilize these parts of the book.

I gave the students a comprehensive walking tour of the non-fiction section of the library.  After that, we played a scavenger hunt game.  Students were given a slip of paper with a subject and a Dewey Decimal number on it.  They were tasked with using what they had learned to locate it.

We all had a lot of fun and grade 1 may now be even more proficient at searching non-fiction than the rest of the school!

November 18

Continuing Our Work with Keywords

“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.

Sample Questions:

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

etc.. etc…

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.

September 26

The Essentials of Research

Over the course of the past two weeks our middle schoolers have been working very hard to learn the following critical research skills;

  • Using the right keywords in a Google search to get the best results
  • How to effectively take notes
  • How to use in-text citation
  • How to create a bibliography

Students were asked to practice these skills in the form of a small assignment on the history of the microwave.  Some groups came back for a second session and practiced these skills with a series of exercises, and other groups made video tutorials to share with other middle schoolers.

Students are getting a strong grasp of these concepts that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

September 18

Using Non-Fiction Books and Kids Search Engines for Research

Our grade 3s got a feel for what research is all about on Tuesday.  Research is defined by Merriam-Webster as;

1careful or diligent search
2studious inquiry or examination especially investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws
3the collecting of information about a particular subject

Our students were tasked to carefully and diligently search through our book resources for information about the insect of their choice using a Table of Contents and/or an Index page.  They took notes in their own words on the insect of their choice and kept track of their sources.

They were then asked to search their subject online using very specific keywords.  The proper use of keywords in online searching is an underrated skill.  It takes some forethought to clearly use keywords to create the perfect query and yield the best results.  A search on kiddle.co for ‘centipedes’ will not yield half as much useful information as the query ‘centipede facts.’

They tracked their information in a special graphic organizer.

It is important that we don’t overlook the importance of teaching children to use books to find information.  Learning to quickly scan a page and find pertinent information is a critical part of learning.  So many children wanted to jump straight to finding the information they needed online, but learning to use non-fiction books is where children should begin.  Once they can easily navigate a book, they will have the ability to quickly and efficiently scan websites in the same way.

We will be continuing to fine-tune these skills with all of their research projects this year and I look forward to seeing this class on a regular basis here in the library.

May 7

You’re Never Too Young to Start Thinking Critically

“Don’t believe everything you read” parents often scold their kids, and we are giving them the skills to do exactly that!  Grade 2 came for a visit to learn about how to use critical thinking and the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where and why) when evaluating if information on a website is credible or not.

I was impressed at how quickly this group of grade 2s suspected that our website was indeed a fake (I guess it isn’t that much of a surprise, their teacher is media savvy Ann-Lynn!)  Working through a checklist of questions, we investigated the credibility of the website as a group.

This group of students are already demonstrating that they are extremely capable of thinking critically and they will grow into students who won’t be easily duped online.

February 1

Practicing Proper Notetaking Skills

I met with students in grades 3 and 4 this week to practice the art of proper notetaking.  Something which can come so naturally for adults is really a skill that needs to be taught and practiced so that bad habits don’t form early.

I’ve heard many middle schoolers tell me that they cut and paste from various websites while taking notes and then put it all together for their final project.  That is a fast-track route to a zero for plagiarism!  Many are not aware that there is anything wrong with this method.  By starting with younger grades I am hoping to catch them before it starts.

We decided to use books for this exercise so that students could practice using the table of contents and indexes to find the information they were looking for.  They then had to write their notes in their own words and keep track of their sources using a bibliography template.

 

We also watched this helpful video about how to figure out what is and is not important to our research questions when researching.

Let me assure you that this wasn’t as boring of a workshop as it sounds. The grade 3s especially got into it and some chose to work over recess, which was wonderful.  They are all on the right track now!

January 15

Understanding Keywords with Grades 3 and 4

Today grades 3 and 4 learned all about strategies for effective internet searching.  Students tend to type long questions into the search bar of search engines and click on the very first site that comes up, regardless of the quality or relevance of the site.  Over the past few years I’ve been trying to convey to students the importance of selecting a few important words from their questions (keywords) and using those to bring in targeted results.  I have also been trying to get students to use some of the many excellent kid-friendly search engines to narrow their searches to results that are geared to their grade level.

Students worked through some research questions and experimented with keywords to find good results.  For example, with the question: How many teeth does an adult dog have?  The keywords were teeth and adult dog.  After a bit of practice they picked up finding keywords very quickly.  The keyword worksheets are available through the marvelous resource Common Sense Education.

Ms. Bennett and Ms. Mellenthin are going to practice this each day in the classroom.  I think it will have a really positive impact on the quality of student research.

November 2

Information Credibility

The library has kicked off this year’s middle school research skills workshop series with a lesson on credible websites vs. non-credible websites and identifying fake news.  The students were asked to be detectives and jot down some of the ways you can identify which sites and articles are real and which are fakes.

Developing critical thinking is a skill that needs more attention than it gets.  Forbes reports that 75% of adults are fooled by fake news.

I had students looking at websites about explorers.  One of them was completely fake.  What I found interesting was that even information that seems very obviously ridiculous to an adult, such as a claim that Samuel de Champlain went to Disney World to celebrate winning ‘Best Fort of the Year’ from ‘Better Forts and Ramparts Magazine’, caused students to actually need to look up how long Disney World has been open because they weren’t sure if this could actually be a possibility.

On our fake news exercise, some students weren’t sure if Justin Trudeau was building a wall or not.  That is why it is so important to follow the rule of three and always compare three sources of information.

Is Justin Trudeau building a wall? The kids don’t know!

These videos show a few clever teams who immediately went to the ‘About’ page on the news article or website they suspected was fake to learn more about the source.  It is important that they learn to look outside of the site to find out more as well.

I think it is also important not to take for granted when you are working with kids that something that seems very obvious to an adult is not very obvious to students in a time where when information is presented in a way that looks legitimate it is taken seriously.

My favourite part of this activity was showing the students the fake website Pets or Food where you can buy exotic animals either alive or dead.  It is scary just how realistic this site is and that’s what makes it such a great example.

I think we all had fun and it was very eye-opening; from my perspective as an observer of this exercise to see how much work we need to do, and their perspective when they came to see how easily they could be duped.  This workshop series will tie in nicely to future topics such as being safe online.