For many years, I have taught research skills to high school students. I have always wanted to make it a more interactive experience for learners when teachers bring classes to the library. This year, Mrs. Mari Simmons requested to bring her 8th grade ELA class to the library to begin their World War II research project. She asked if we could teach them about some of our many resources in the library. Mrs. Simmons had recently received a Chromebook cart for her class to use. This was an added bonus since I had been anxious to incorporate devices into such a lesson. In this article, I want to share how we designed a research lesson around the Chromebooks and Google Classroom.
HyperDoc in Google Classroom
I brainstormed during the weekend prior to the lesson. I kept thinking back to the HyperDoc session I attended at the Google Summit during summer 2016. It seemed an interactive document like this might be a nice way to keep Mrs. Simmons’ learners engaged all through our research project lessons. I decided to use a HyperDoc that contained links and brief information to the resources the students would be using. Mrs. Simmons also allowed Kaitlyn Price (partner teacher librarian) and myself to join her Google Classroom. I thought this was a great opportunity to become “embedded librarians” so students could message us at any time if they had questions. This is a link to the HyperDoc we used. It seemed very helpful for the learners to see an outline of what we covered in their classes on this document. In addition, if they required explanations, we could insert brief definitions. The document was posted in Google Classroom, so at any point during the project the document was accessible. We also used Padlet.com as an added method for students to ask questions.
OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)
I shared the basics of searching in our OPAC. I showed students how to find the call number and also how to tell the difference between fiction/ non-fiction materials. We looked at a few examples of the contents of books while using the OPAC. By having the link to the catalog on the HyperDoc, students were much more engaged than in years past!
I showed them how to login to Britannica School and how to search by using different keywords for their topics. Students seemed to like that Britannica School’s cite tool creates a nice MLA citation automatically for them. We also looked at the “Web’s Best Sites” tool for websites that have been approved by Britannica editors.
On the fourth day of research, Mrs. Price showed students how to access EasyBib. She also showed them how to create their works cited page using the tool. They were highly engaged for this activity since they had already found several sources by this point in the week.
Google Advanced Search
Many students did not know how to utilize Google Advanced Search. I showed them how to access it and also how to specify .edu or .gov domains for more credible sources. One of the things I always like to do is compare the number of sites found between a normal Google search and a Google Advanced search by filtering out the .com and .org. This presents results that showing only the .edu (or .gov) domain links. This always turns up significantly fewer results for students to choose from.
Since the students had Chromebooks, we decided to create a Padlet (padlet.com) for each class period. We encouraged students to ask questions on the Padlet. We found that this empowered many students since some may not want to ask a question in front of the entire class. One period filled up the screen with relevant questions. It was a wonderful addition to the lesson!
We created a short survey using Google Forms to get feedback on the research lessons and tools that were presented all week. Below are some of the student responses:
“Really enjoyed EasyBib, makes citing a whole lot easier.”
“It was great! I liked the new question website (Padlet) so you don’t have to wait on a teacher.”
“This really helped me and made it a lot easier to do my project.”
“One of my favorite websites for research is the Britannica School website. BY FAR!!”
“Everything was really good but next time maybe you could do an example of taking notes on a notecard.”
“I thought that it helped us find trusted sites to use.”
Teacher Reflection (Mrs. Mari Simmons)
This week in the Lakeside High School Media Center, my six 8th English classes have been learning the process of writing a research paper. The topics are based on people and events during World War II. Students chose topics in class before meeting in the library. Mr. Evans snd Mrs. Price introduced the lesson by joining Google Classrooms and posting links to OPAC and Encyclopedia Britannica for finding sources. Mr. Evans and Mrs. Price modeled the information on the big screen for students. There was also a Padlet posted on Google Classroom which allowed students to ask questions about the lesson or sources. The questions were answered in a timely fashion, and sometimes addressed to the whole group. Mrs. Price explained Easybib.com for students to create the Works Cited page. Once students found sources, she demonstrated how to create citations for books, encyclopedia articles, and websites. Students then submitted the Google Document to their individual Google Classrooms for me to grade online. One of the improvements this year was students followed instruction by using an individual Chromebook, which I brought from my room. Students learned quickly, as it was a hands-on experience instead of a listen and learn lecture. The expertise of Mr. Evans and Mrs. Price with research greatly added to the student learning experience. It was an extremely successful week, and a great introduction for writing a research paper!
Now that we have had a successful integration of these interactive tools in the research lessons, we want to do more. We are already brainstorming what this might look like in upper grades and also other subjects. We hope that students will take advantage of our “embedded librarian” status in their Google Classroom by messaging us if they have research questions. Perhaps we can try embedding ourselves in other teacher’s Google Classrooms in a similar way during research projects. This provides excellent evidence to our stakeholders of the value of the library program. We cannot simply wait for students (and teachers) to come to us, we must find them and serve them where they are (even if that means asking to join Google Classrooms)! I can’t wait to see Mrs. Simmons’ finished student research products!