Effective Internet Research

IWB quizTwo of the resources on teacherLED.com complement each other well.  Letter Quiz and Quiz Buzzer allow for a fun competitive lesson that challenges children to improve their efficiency in research using the internet.  It needs to be held in a computer suite where each child has access to a computer.

Copy and paste is the great enemy of considered research with children.  It allows them to cast a large net in the hope of bringing in the snippet of useful information that they require.   Through this indiscriminating approach great swathes of information are presented where only a sentence is relevant.  Or, even worse, without reading for meaning they mix up homonyms.  I see this lack of discrimination often when my students research their home city of Birmingham, UK and then they present me with the fact that their city is the capital of Jefferson County, Alabama.

In the interest of addressing this I spend a short time going through the best methods of using search engines.  Some useful information on this is presented on the Google for Educators site.  In particular I want them to evaluate the type of site they are on for reliability, and then evaluate what they have found to see if it makes sense.  If they can do this quickly so much the better.

One of the biggest timewasters that children do is type whole questions into Google.  If I ask “What V is the capital of Andorra?” That is often what they’ll type in.  Yet Google and other search engines use key words for their searches.  The following video gives a good overview of how search engines work and is suitable for children.

Thinking of the best way to find an answer is not only dependent on distilling a question down to the key words.  A favourite question of mine is “What S is a European country with a flag that has 3 stars above a mountain on it?” These sort of questions require a more thoughtful approach.  Keywords are not so helpful.  Encourage students to not just follow existing search strategies.  A more effective way is to find a site with European flags and then look through them.


Children have also often never considered using Advanced Search. This can really help to focus in on a relevant web page.  A good example is showing the difference between searching salsa when you want to know about sauces and not dances.  Use advance search to exclude dance from the search results and compare the outcome to a plain search on salsa.

After this we begin the activity.  The class are split into 2 teams – the smaller team is represented with the white hexagons on Letter Quiz as this colour has a shorter route across the board.  I usually offer the winners a reward such as ten minutes free time and the losers get a challenge to solve before their free time begins.  Open up Quiz Buzzer in one window and Letter Quiz in another window.  One person from each team comes up to the IWB.  I find which letter is flashing and issue a question.  The questions can either be pre-prepared or from your own knowledge.  Obscure subject matter is all the better for testing their research. Change windows to Quiz Buzzer and ask a question.  The class should immediately begin researching the answer.  The two children at the IWB should watch their team until someone indicates they have the answer.  They should then press the buzzer and indicate who is to give the answer.  That student should answer before the lights go out on the IWB.  If they are wrong, or don’t answer, their team is given a one minute delay before they can answer again.  This encourages them to be more selective in what answers they give.  If the other team answers within the one minute and is wrong the delay is cancelled and both teams can answer again.  After a correct answer is marked on Letter Quiz another student for each team comes up to be the button presser.

As per the game show on which Letter Quiz is based the winning team is the one that connects their colours across the board.

This lesson makes a good end of term activity that satisfies the children that they’ve had a fun lesson but is actually productive too! Having done this lesson a few times you see the children become much more effective internet researchers.

If you would like to submit any question banks for others to use or have anything to add to this lesson please leave a comment.