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Lesson Plan

Keywords: Learning to Focus Internet Research

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 6 – 8
Estimated Time Two 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Erica "Ricki" Berg

Erica "Ricki" Berg

Vernon, Connecticut


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: Learning About Search Strategies

Session 2: Using Search Strategies for Research


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Learn how to conduct an effective search on the Internet using keywords

  • Learn how to refine a keyword combination (also known as a search phrase) to yield better focused results

  • Understand the difference between effective and ineffective keyword combinations

  • Apply search strategies and skills by researching a variety of topics

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Session 1: Learning About Search Strategies

1. Discuss students' experiences in searching for information on the Internet. Have students describe the kinds of things they have searched for on the Internet, and then ask them

  • Were they able to find what they were looking for?

  • What frustrates them when they are searching on the Internet?

  • What strategies seem to work well for Internet searches?

  • What search engines do they like to use and why?

  • What strategies do they apply when using a search engine? (Write these on the board.)
Use this discussion to encourage students to start thinking about how they do research on the Internet. Also use students' responses to gauge their level of expertise, which is likely to vary considerably across the class. Based on this information you can determine which strategies you should refer to later in the lesson, as background for introducing more sophisticated search techniques.

2. Using your computer and the projector, open your Internet browser. Point out the URL box at the top of the page and explain that this is where the webpage address or Uniform Resource Locator for the current webpage is displayed. Explain to students that this box should not be used to search for information, but it can be used to go directly to a particular website if they know the URL. Provide one or two examples, typing in, your school's Web address, or a similar easily identified address.

3. Type the address of the search engine students will use, such as, into the URL box on your screen. Show students the Search text box at the top where keywords are entered on the search engine home page.

4. Explain that you are going to search the Internet to find out "What happens in the Chinese New Year?" Type Chinese New Year into the search box of Go through a few of the results and read each of the hyperlinks (which are in blue) and the descriptions (in black). Explain how the URL can provide information about the source of the website, through domain names such as .gov, .org, and .edu; and country codes such as .tw and .ca). (See the Extensions section for additional discussion of URLs.)

5. Explain to students that it is important to read the website descriptions and not to just click on the first search results. In this Yahoo! Kids search, the first result hyperlink says Chinese New Year Calendar and the description reads, "See when the Chinese New Year begins for a particular year, and what animal sign will rule it." This website will show a calendar. However, since you are looking to learn more about the Chinese New Year in general, you can probably find a better website for your research. Continue reading the links with students until you get to the link Chinese New Year Info. Read the hyperlink and description. Explain to students that this looks like a good link for your search because the hyperlink name and description answer the question you started with.

6. Click one of the search results and scan the information on the page. Also explore any links from the page that seem relevant to your original question. If you feel students need to review how to navigate the Web, show them how to move between websites using the back and forward arrows, and how to click on links within a website that lead to other relevant webpages. If your browser allows for tabbed browsing (Firefox or IE7), show them how to open each site in a new tab and navigate between tabs. (With an older browser, demonstrate how to open a site in a new window, and how to toggle between windows by minimizing a window or using the keyboard shortcut Alt-Tab.)

7. Show students how to refine a search by adding keywords. Explain that to focus a search they should use at least 3 keywords, and for many topics they will do better with 5 or 6. For example, if they are only looking for how the Chinese New Year is celebrated in America, they can add the word America to the search. Perform this search to show how the results change, so that the first website listed is now more relevant to the topic.

8. Explain that efficient keyword searching uses primarily nouns, eliminating unimportant words such as the, and, what, or in. As an example, in the Yahoo! Kids search box, type the question "What happens in the Chinese New Year?" Show students that there is now only one result, the Chinese Calendar, that seems to relate to the question they are researching. Read through the other search results on the first page. Point out that when you used the full question, the extra words prevented the search engine from focusing on the main topic of the search.

Note: There are a few search engines such as that break this rule and only allow the searcher to type in a question. However, all of the major search engines such as,,, and even require users to simplify their searches to better focus on the specific information they are looking for.

9. Explain to students that correct spelling of keywords is important. As examples, try searching for hurracanes or cougers, and then repeat the search using the correct spelling. On the other hand, capital letters are not important-search engines are not case-sensitive. The search results will be the same if you type Earth or earth.

10. Give students the handout Using Keywords on the Internet. Using the first example, explain that sometimes they may have to change search words to make their search more effective. In this sample search, the word popular was added to make the search more specific, and the word eat (a verb) was changed to food (a noun) to maximize the search results.

11. Have students work in pairs at computers to finish Section A of the handout. Ideally, more computer-savvy students can be paired with students who are less comfortable using computers.

12. After all students have finished, work as a class to compile a list of keyword combinations that students thought yielded the best search results. Recognize that students may produce equally effective searches using different keywords. Ask students to identify the strategies they used to refine their searches. Students may say they omitted unimportant words, or selected more focused synonyms, or added additional keywords to improve search results.

13. Collect the handout for assessment of Section A, and use students' written responses as a formulative assessment tool to determine whether students understood the lesson's objectives. Evaluate their handouts and give constructive feedback.

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Session 2: Using Search Strategies for Research

1. Return the Using Keywords on the Internet handout to students and instruct them to complete Section B. Have them first write in the three topics they have selected, and then write keywords and phrases they think would be effective in researching these topics. Remind them that effective searches use between three and six keywords.

2. Using a computer lab or classroom computers, have students research their essay topics. Note: The reason for selecting three topics is that the kid-friendly search engines may not provide enough information on some topics for an essay. In this case, you can help students broaden their topics or encourage them to try another of their three topics.

3. Circulate around the classroom or computer lab to help students refine their searches. Remind them that they should follow appropriate links within websites, particularly if the website seems to be a good source of information. Also remind them to seek out the most relevant websites, the ones that seem to best match the information they are looking for.

4. Have students take notes about all three topics. They will probably discover that they can find more information on some topics than on others. Remind students to copy the URLs of the websites where they get their information, so they can properly attribute their sources if they quote or paraphrase any of the sites in their essays.


At the end of the session, have students circle the topic on which they have the most information for their essay. Collect the handouts and students' notes to assess whether they have

  • found information directly relevant to their topic

  • employed the search strategies learned in the previous session

  • noted the URLs where they found their information
6. Ask students to share aloud which topics they chose and why. Also have them share what search strategies they used to find their information.

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  • Review procedures for writing an expository or persuasive essay and have students write essays on their chosen topics, incorporating their Internet research.

  • Show students other search engines that are available for them to use. Choose a keyword combination and demonstrate how an identical search can yield different results in different search engines. Some good kid-friendly search tools are Ask for Kids and KidsClick.

  • If your school has filtering software and you are allowing students to use the major Internet search engines, demonstrate some of the additional features available for fine-tuning an Internet search in Google Advanced Search or Yahoo! Search Advanced Web Search. A possible example would be research for a science report on eagles. If you do a Google search using only the keyword eagles, the top results are about a popular music group and the Philadelphia NFL team. But advanced search options allow you to specify that you want results "with all of the words" eagles, birds and "without the words" football, team, band, music. With this more targeted search, all of the top results provide relevant information for a report on birds. Have students refine the searches they did previously (in Section B of the handout) using these additional options.

  • Using a varied set of search results, examine the URLs of the listed websites with students, noting the different types of domain names, e.g., .com (commercial), .gov (government), .net (network), .edu (educational), .org (organization), and .mil (military). Explore several different domain types and discuss the differences among them.
  • What types of information you are likely to find in each?

  • Which sites are likely to provide the most reliable information?

  • Which would probably have the most current information?

  • Which would most likely provide unbiased information?

  • Also point out that URLs for websites originating outside the United States usually include a country code. (See the Root Zone Database for a listing of these codes.)

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    • To assess whether students understand how to structure effective keyword combinations that return relevant information, check their written responses in Section A of the handout. Perform an Internet search using the keywords they suggested for an effective search, and see if the answer to the question appears within the first three to five results.

    • To verify that students understand the difference between effective and ineffective keyword combinations, examine their ineffective search answers in Section A. Ineffective keyword combinations will be too general or will contain unimportant words such as articles and pronouns.

    • Collect students’ notes to determine whether they researched all three topics they chose, and whether they wrote down relevant, important information about their topics. Also, make sure that students wrote down (or copied and pasted) the URLs of the sites where they found their information.

    • Using Section B of the handout, assess whether students are learning how to vary their keyword combinations to yield more relevant information on a topic. If students are not using effective keyword combinations, be sure to give them constructive feedback and provide suggestions of other keywords they might use.

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