You are going to be starting a project on cities in Ontario.
Let’s start by looking at a non-fiction book and learning how to use them for our research.
What is non-fiction?
Table of Contents?
Now how can we search for information about our city on Google. Let’s open up our internet browsers and find out. We can get very specific with our keywords to find key information for our research project. For example, if we want to answer the question what is the population of Ottawa Ontario, what could my keywords be? What about if my questions is; what are Ottawa’s famous landmarks?
It is really important to remember that we never need to type a long question into Google. All you need are keywords! Keywords help us to find the best possible sites on our topic.
What search engines can we use if we want really kid-friendly information?
https://www.kiddle.co/ – Is by far the best one in my humble opinion.
Now your project involves making a short newscast about your city. Let’s take a minute to look at some great examples of kid-friendly news videos.
Elements of a news report…
- Welcome everyone and introduce yourself.
- Make sure your story contains The 5 Ws!
- Fill your newscast with important and interesting information. Example, lots of key facts, interesting facts.
- You can use video clips and photos as props to help your newscast be more visually interesting.
- Present your ‘story’ with lots of energy and enthusiasm.
- You can include commentary and interviews with others in your presentation. For example, if someone has visited your city, you could include an interview with them where you find out what their favourite tourist destination in that city was, their restaurant recommendations, etc…
- Kid-friendly news sites;
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!
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’
Now you have some basic research skill techniques that will make doing any research project easier!
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!
“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.
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!
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.
These two workshops with Rabbi Rottenberg’s 7 and 8s were the most intensive of the lot and covered it all, from exercises on forming effective queries in search engines, to learning proper MLA bibliography format, to examine credible and non-credible sites in research.
We parsed some searches to find out which keywords were critical and which were not necessary to our search.
This exercise was based on a great Google Searching workshop that is available free online.
Picking the Right Search Terms
We worked on creating effective queries for many interesting questions.
Grade 8 had the toughest job, not only did they have to create a mini-bio on the celebrity of their choosing, they had to critically examine the sites they were using as they were going. The results were both entertaining and encouraging as students started fitting together key concepts
Overall these workshops have been incredibly rewarding for me and I hope to hear that the result of these workshops is that kids are handing in much better quality assignments and choosing their sources much more critically.