Databases are a great resource. But I can’t seem to get my students to feel the same way. My last database lesson on World Book kids didn’t go so great, so I’m trying again, this time with Ebsco Explora. It’s a more complex resource tool to use, but will hopefully help students find more specific answers to questions they have when conducting research through our Virtual Library.
World Book kids and student is great for a basic overview of a concept, but Explora amps up the research project when trying to answer specific questions. With my fourth and fifth grade classes, I spent another week going back to database research, this time using EbscoHost Explora.
We went into virtual library and returned to database section – see who remembers what a database is; purpose of a database
I gave a very, very brief overview of the different database options within Virtual Library, then moved everyone into Explora. (See below)
I used the class’s PBL Unit topic to demonstrate research within Explora and showed the read aloud / features and details of how to use Explora.
I then suggested they begin database research by wanting to answer a question. I posed a question specific to the class’s PBL Unit and then demonstrated how to search for an answer and what words make sense to use in the search bar.
Once I saw the search results, I spent some time pointing out which of those articles seemed relevant and which didn’t, based on the title of the article and the little bit of information you get from the search results.
I then followed the link and again – very briefly – showed how I would skim for information to answer my question. Some of the students could easily skim an article and said they use that strategy regularly to work through articles and websites. Others were less familiar with skimming as a strategy and I could have easily done a whole other lesson to teach this skill for many in the class.
Students worked with a partner or group at their table (it really didn’t matter the groups as long as everyone had someone to work with). I don’t spend a lot of time forming groups because my class time is so limited. My main priority is making sure no one is left out, unless they have a strong preference to work alone, then I allow that too.
Students wrote a couple of questions pertaining to their current PBL units in a Google Docs. We shared out a few examples so everyone had somewhere to start. Then students had time to use Explora to answer their question or questions. Some of the questions were far more easily answerable than others, and I went from group to group to help students revise questions to those that were answerable through database research.
For example, one of my classes is studying the theme “Where do I come from?” Questions about the history of the Cherokee tribe were typically answerable through database research. However, asking “Where did my ancestors come from?” wan’t something Explora could answer for you.
Each table shared out what they learned and discovered in addition to any search tips they had to better find answers to their questions. Some students searched by typing out an entire question (does not work well in Explora) and then through trial and error searched using only keywords and then found specific articles that could possibly contain the answer to their questions.
In one group, I watched as they started by searching “Did the Cherokee live in Missouri?” produces 0 results. Searching “Cherokee Missouri” didn’t come up with any useful results to answer the question. Then searching “Cherokee” came up with a very general article that still didn’t answer the question. This was the point when we talked about finding other resources outside of Explora, and the kids and I both felt a little frustrated with the limitations of this resource.
To close, I asked how they liked Explora compared to World Book kids. Most said they liked World Book better because the reading level was easier. Some of the more advanced kids think World Book is too simple and doesn’t provide the answers they are looking for.
My time management on this lesson wasn’t great. It’s still hard for me to know what students already know and what they don’t. Choosing good keywords for searching could be its own lesson, as could skimming, as could asking good questions, as could paraphrasing to answer a question.
The fast pace of this lesson went over well, and my engagement was higher. However, I feel like there were at least a few kids in each of the classes who were totally lost.
By the fourth time I did this lesson, I set a timer to limit how long they could search for the answer to their question within Explora. This increased engagement because the pressure was on, and it was more fun for the competitive and achievement-oriented students.
When I do this again next year, I need to better pre-assess my students’ skills and possibly split this up into a couple of weeks instead of just one 20-30 minute class period.
Any other suggestions on how you excite students about database research in the elementary library?