Standard Lesson

Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 50-minute sessions
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In this lesson plan, students explore a class inquiry project, collecting Web-based resources that can be used for further study during the course of the class or for more in-depth projects. Students begin by brainstorming a list of kinds of information they will need to know. They then help set criteria for the lesson by thinking about characteristics of effective Web resources. Next, students use an online tool to evaluate three Websites and then locate and evaluate Websites based on the criteria they defined earlier. Finally, students discuss whether their predictions about the characteristics that would describe useful resources were effective, and revise the list as needed. This lesson can be completed individually or in groups. For demonstration purposes, this lesson plan focuses on researching a specific country or several countries; however, this activity can be completed with any inquiry topic in the classroom.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

In "Inquiring Minds Use Technology!" Jeff Wilhelm explains that "From the literature teacher who uses inquiry to ponder big questions like ‘What is courage?' to the science teacher who asks, ‘What is the connection between land development and ecology?' inquiry allows students not only to consider thoughtful questions, but to use Web quests and electronic scrapbooks as they research their topic" (45). One of the most important steps in any inquiry project that uses Web resources is determining whether the resources and information one finds not only address the inquiry topic but also provide high-quality information. Nancy Patterson tells us, "When research took place down the school hall, under the watchful eye of the librarian, we had the illusion, at least, that the information students were reading was reliable. Now, suddenly, it seems, we have a huge buffet of information available at the click of a mouse." As a result, Patterson urges us to help our students "become literate in the ways of the Web" by analyzing and evaluating each Web page closely, using techniques such as those explored in this lesson plan, before including it as a resource in any project.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.




  • Check that you have parent or guardian permission for all students to participate in Internet searches, and obtain a copy of your school or district’s acceptable use policy. If desired, make an overhead of the policy to share with students.

  • Familiarize yourself with the resources on the Writing Guides site from Colorado State University, and choose the demos that best fit your students’ needs.

  • Choose a method for students to share the Web Resources that they find in the course of their research. The following options can work:

    • Computer-based systems such as electronic bulletin boards or e-mail discussion lists, with category headings as subject or thread titles.

    • A handout, developed by creating a form with shared category headings.

    • A class Web page, on which you list the URLs, can be added to your school Website. Students might e-mail their recommendations to you or complete a form with shared categories.

  • Choose the topic for your students’ research and brainstorm a list of essential subject areas that students should cover. Keep your list for reference. For demonstration purposes, this lesson plan focuses on researching a specific country or several countries; however, this activity can be completed with any inquiry topic in the classroom and works well to supplement major units of study across the curriculum, as outlined in this list of additional collection ideas. Customize the lists as appropriate for your class. For an extended unit on science, technology, and society, for instance, you might use the complete list. For a more focused collection, you might narrow the list of categories to one area (e.g., transformations through science and technology).

  • If desired, make copies of the Website Evaluation Form.

  • For background information and information to share with students, refer to the Eduscapes resource Evaluating Internet Resources.

  • Test the Website Evaluation Process student interactive and the Website Evaluation Form student interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • explore the criteria for effective Websites.

  • search for and evaluate Websites for a particular class collection.

  • evaluate the effectiveness of the collection and criteria.

Session One

  1. Explain the project that students will be completing: generally, they will gather and evaluate Web resources individually or in small groups. At the end of their research, they should have identified at least three Web resources to share with the class. These resources will be published as a group collection for everyone to refer to as the class pursues more detailed, individual research projects. Modify the explanation to fit the project that you’ve chosen (or that students decide upon).

  2. Remind students that their research must comply with your school’s or district’s Acceptable Use Policy.

  3. Ask students to brainstorm a list of kinds of information they will need to know about to conduct their research project. For research about a specific country or several countries, for example, students might want to know about such things as the people, where people live, the geography of the country, and so forth. Your students’ responses may be more specific. For instance, your students may mention that they want to know about the schools and what the children in the country do for entertainment. Add all the suggestions to the brainstormed list.

  4. Once you have gathered a preliminary list, review the items. Group similar ideas and make any revisions. This list will form the basic categories for the students’ research.

  5. To provide more structure, you can rewrite the list a bulleted or outline format, as shown in the brief list below:

    • Buildings

    • People

      • Men

      • Women

      • Children

        • School

        • Entertainment

    • Animals

    • Geography

    • Religions
  6. Review the task, explaining how the Web resources that students identify will be shared. You might post a piece of chart paper for each item on the list and ask students to write the URLs or tape printouts of the sites or the evaluation forms on the chart paper; or students could share the Web resources online, using a bulletin board system or e-mail.

  7. Also explain whether students will work individually and whether the research will be independent or if students should choose a specific item on the list to focus on. This project can work well in small groups, with each group responsible for a particular item on the list.

  8. Suggest the number of sites that students should identify—three sites each works well.

  9. Ask students to help set the criteria for the lesson by sharing the characteristics of Web resources that will be effective for this project. Encourage students to think about the following questions as they develop their list:

    • What can we tell about a Web resource by looking at who wrote the page?

    • What do connections to companies, schools, and other groups tell us about a Website?

    • Does it matter if the site has advertisements? Are some ads more acceptable than others?

    • What is the difference between a .com, a .edu, and a .net site? What about a site or a site?

    • How can you tell what the purpose of a site it? Does the purpose matter for our project?

    • How do the intended readers of a site affect its effectiveness for our project? Does the audience matter?

    • What about the technical issues of the site? What does it mean if you find broken links?

    • How does the date of information on the site matter?
  10. Allow students to share ideas freely. Explain that in the next session you’ll share a list of basic questions to use to evaluate a Web resource that will tie to their characteristics.

Session Two

  1. Review the assignment that students will complete, including the outline of kinds of information that will form the class collection of Web resources.

  2. Remind students of the list of characteristics that they explored at the end of the previous session.

  3. Share the Website Evaluation Form, which provides a basic list of questions students can use to determine whether a site is appropriate for the class’s project.

  4. Connect items on the evaluation form to the characteristics brainstormed in the previous class.

  5. If desired, you might note that the evaluation questions could be modified slightly to help a writer planning to write a Web page.

  6. Explain that you’ll evaluate several sites as a class in order to demonstrate how the process works, using the Website Evaluation Process Student Interactive, which asks students to imagine that each person in the class is researching a country that he or she is interested in (for instance, a country where a penpal lives, where their family came from, or where they plan to visit).

  7. Work through the three Websites included in the student interactive, answering the evaluation questions. Urge students to discuss their feelings about the sites as you work through the sites. The following three sites are included in the tool:

    • The UNICEF Website: Information by Country
      This site is produced by a well-known organization that is an authority in the area of children around the world. It is likely an excellent resource for the imagined project.

    • Flags of All Countries
      This site’s use of advertising and dated information is problematic. The site’s connection to a company that sells immigration software also raises questions about its usefulness. This site is probably not a good resource for the project.

    • The Flat Stanley Project
      This site includes awards and approvals from a variety of sources that indicate that it is probably a good resource; however the information may not fit well with the research project and the audience for the site is probably younger than middle school. Students might find the information useful for some parts of their project, but it’s not likely to be a major resource.
  8. Take the opportunity to demonstrate the technical process of using the student interactive at the same time, providing pointers on how the tool works. Be sure to work all the way through to printing the responses by using the Finish button at the top of the interactive after answering all of the questions.

  9. If your class is working on a research project on countries around the world, be sure to add the excellent sites to your class collection (e.g., add them to your chart paper, post them on the online bulletin board, or send them in an e-mail message).

  10. Answer any questions that students have about the process. Explain that students will have the next class session to find and share resources for the class collection.

Session Three

  1. Go over the Acceptable Use Policy for your school or district with students to remind them of the guidelines for their Internet use.

  2. Demonstrate a search tool for students using the resources from the Writing Guides site. In this way, you can show students how to complete a basic search and simultaneously show them how to use the demos on the Writing Guides site.

  3. Click on the “Conducting Electronic Searches” tab on the guides page.

  4. Select one of the guides on the page, based on your students’ experience with online searches. If they have completed few online searches, for instance, choose the Conducting Simple Web Searches link. Complete additional demos from the site as appropriate.

  5. Once you’re certain that students understand the basics of Internet searches, arrange the students in groups if desired, and divide the research categories about the groups or among individual students.

  6. Point students to the Website Evaluation Form student interactive or distribute copies of the Website Evaluation Form (PDF) for students to use as they evaluate the sites that they find. If you use the interactive, explain that students can use the tool as many times as needed to evaluate all the resources that they find.

  7. You might suggest a specific site for students to begin their search on (e.g., Google, Ask Jeeves for Kids, MSN) based on the resources you’ve demoed from the Writing Demonstrations site.

  8. Circulate among students as they work.

  9. As appropriate, point students to the guides site for minilessons on the search tools.

  10. Allow students the rest of the session to search for sites to add to the class collection. By the end of the session, students should have found all the sites that they will contribute.

  11. If you are structuring a collection for the class that will include all of the links—either by creating a Web page that includes all of the links or creating a handout that lists the sites that students have identified, students must submit the sites that they’ve found before the next session begins so that you’ll have time to create the necessary resource. If students are sharing their sites using an online resource such as an electronic bulletin board or e-mail discussion list, students can continue their work for homework as long as all of their submissions have been sent or posted by the beginning of the next class.

Session Four

  1. Distribute or point students to the class collection. Explain that it’s time to explore the sites that the class has found. You might provide a brief overview of the collection before students investigate the sites independently. For instance, if several students submitted the same site, you might ask students to hypothesize reasons that the site was particularly popular. You might also ask students to identify any patterns that are obvious in the collection—for instance, perhaps most of the sites are .com sites.

  2. The method that you choose for sharing the sites will depend upon the way that your collection has been shared (e.g., a handout, an online bulletin board) as well as how the resources will contribute to the rest of your course:

    • If students have handouts or a shared class Web page that lists the collection, ask them to keep notes on the sites that they visit during this session, paying attention to those that they may want to return to later and those that were particularly impressive. After students have explored the sites, conclude the session with a class discussion of project.

    • If students created their class collection using an online bulletin board or e-mail discussion list, ask them to visit the sites and post replies to those that they’re most interested in. Supplement the online discussion with face-to-face conversation about the sites, based on the ideas that students share online.

    • If students will be using the collections for a specific project (such as the alternative research paper listed in the Extensions below), you might move directly to the research project, asking students to add replies or share
  3. At the end of the session, return to the list of characteristics that students created in the first session. Ask students to focus their comments on whether their predictions about the characteristics that would describe useful resources were effective. Make any revisions to the list to reflect students’ experience during this activity.


Follow this activity with the Picture Books as Framing Texts: Research Paper Strategies for Struggling Writers lesson plan. An ideal unit might begin with sharing the framing book from this lesson then collecting Web resources as a class before students write their own contributions to the class book.

Student Assessment / Reflections

The final session of this lesson plan allows students the opportunity to provide feedback on the collected resources. Students will see the sites they have selected being used by others in the class—this informal feedback from other students is excellent reinforcement for the project. For more structured assessment, check the evaluation forms that students submit for completeness and accuracy.

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