Are your 3rd-5th grade students learning the skills they need to conduct online research? Last year the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey of over 2,000 advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers to determine their perspectives on students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies.
The survey report How Teens Do Research in the Digital World concludes that virtually all (99%) survey participants agree “the internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available.” At the same time, a significant majority of these teachers strongly agreed that students expect to be able to find information quickly and easily using the internet. 83% felt that the amount of information available online is overwhelming to most students. 71% agreed that today’s technologies discourage students from using a wide range of resources for their research. 60% agreed that these technologies make it harder for students to find credible sources of information.
There’s a lot that 3rd to 5th grade teachers can do give students the foundational skills they need to tackle rigorous research projects throughout their academic careers AND address the Common Core State Standards that concern informational text:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.8 Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text, identifying which reasons and evidence support which point(s).
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
Check out session 5, “New Literacies of the Internet,” in the video workshop Teaching Reading 3-5. In the video, Donald Leu of the University of Connecticut clarifies some of the differences between reading narrative text and reading informational text, and then defines five skill areas that students need to draw on to learn from online information.
- Identifying important questions: In the video you’ll see educators helping students generate questions on topics such as global warming and colonial American history. Good questions lead to good searches.
- Searching for information: Young researchers can too easily get in the habit of clicking on anything that turns up on a search results page. The teachers in the session 5 video walk students through taking a close look at search result summaries to make inferences about which sites will be the most useful.
- Analyzing and evaluating information: You can learn a lot from an “About Us” page. When was the information created? Who created it and why?
- Synthesizing information: Dr. Leu points out that synthesis is different on the internet. In print, the text is contained. Online, the text is constructed as students navigate from link to link. Skimming and scanning with purpose are important here. Students need to practice monitoring themselves to keep from getting distracted from their purpose for reading. Graphic organizers to the rescue!
- Communicating information: Students can practice safe and authentic online communications by sharing their research efforts with other students. How about 3rd graders creating a shared list of the “best” sites for learning about Egyptian civilization?
You can use the session’s Literacy Practice Portfolio to reflect on your current practice and to plan for implementing new techniques. And when today’s third grader astonishes his future AP teacher with his online research acumen, you will hear distant applause.