50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (2023)

Last updated on April 29, 2020.

For a couple of years,Seth GodinHe has spoken about the need to "Connect the dots" instead of "Collect the dots". That is, instead of memorizing information, students should be able to solve new problems, recognize patterns, and combine multiple perspectives.

Strong research skills support this. Finding information fluently and using it successfully is an essential skill for life and work.

Today's students have more information at their fingertips than ever before, and that means the teacher's role as guide is more important than ever.

You may be wondering how teaching research skills can fit into a busy curriculum.There aren't enough hours in the day! The good news is that there are so many mini-lessons you can do to improve student skills over time.

This post outlines 50 ideas for activities that could be done in just a few minutes (or spread out over a longer lesson if you have the time!). you will find oneSummary as PDFdown too!

Learn more about the discovery process

I have a popular post calledTeach students how to research online in 5 stepswhich I first published in 2012 and have updated regularly since then. It outlines a five-step approach to breaking the discovery process into manageable parts.

Want more details on this five-step research process?I can email you a copy of an eBook I have put together. Includes three posters to use in your classroom.Enter your data here.

50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (1)

This publication provides ideas for mini-lessons that could be used in the classroom throughout the year to develop students' skills in the following five areas:clarify, search, deepen, evaluate, jquote. It also includes ideas for learningstay organizedthroughout the research process.

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Notes on the 50 research activities:

  • These ideas can be adapted for different age groups, from elementary/elementary to high school.
  • Many of these ideas can be repeated throughout the year.
  • Depending on the age of your students, you can decide whether the activity is more teacher-led or student-led. Some activities suggest making a list of words, questions, or phrases. Teachers of younger students could create them themselves.
  • Depending on how much time you have, many of the activities can be quickly modeled by the teacher or expanded into a one hour lesson.
  • Some of the activities may fit into more than one category.
  • Are you looking for simple items for younger students to use in some of the activities? AttemptDOGO newsÖtime for kids.NewselaIt's also a great resource, but you have to sign up for a free account.
  • Why not try some activities at a staff meeting? Anyone can brush up on their own investigative skills at any time!

To the ideas! here is aSummary as PDFfor you and you can read a more detailed description of each activity below.

50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (2)

I'd love for you to share your own ideas for lessons and activities in a comment.

Clear up

50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (3)What information are you looking for? Consider keywords, questions, synonyms, alternative expressions, etc.

  1. Choose a topic(z. B. Koalas, Basketball, Mount Everest). write as manyQuestionsas you can think in relation to this topic.
  2. Do onemind mapabout a topic you are studying. This can be done on paper or using an online tool such asBlase.us.
  3. Read a book or a short article. Make a list of 5 words from the text that you do not fully understand. search forMeaningof words in a dictionary (online or on paper).
  4. Include a printed or digital copy of a short articletitleRemote control. Think of as many different titles as possible that fit the article.
  5. Make a list of 5 different questions that you could type into Google(For example, which country in Asia has the largest population?)Circle thatkeywordsin every question.
  6. Write 10 words to describe a person, place, or topic. SuggestSynonymousfor these words with a tool likeDictionary of Synonyms.
  7. Writepairs of synonymson sticky notes (this could be done by the teacher or by the students). Each student in the class has a sticky note and walks around the room to find the person with the synonym for their word.


50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (4)What are the best words to type into the search engine to get the highest quality results?

  1. Learn how to search Google with yourVoice (i.e. click/tap on the microphone in the Google search box or on your phone/tablet keyboard). List the pros and cons of voice and text search.
  2. Opentwo different search enginesin your browser like Google and Bing. Write a query and compare the results. Do all search engines work exactly the same?
  3. Ask students to work in pairs to try aother search engine(Heu11 listed here). Tell the class about the pros and cons.
  4. Think of something that interests you(For example: What endangered animals live in the Amazon rainforest?).Open Google in two tabs. When searching, enter a keyword or two (e.g. Amazon jungle). Enter multiple in the other searchrelevant keywords (for example endangered animals of the Amazon rainforest).Compare the results. Discuss the importance of being specific.
  5. Similar to the above, try two different searches that contain a phrasequotation marksand the other not. For example,Origin of the "Cat and Dog Rain"jOrigin of cat and dog rain. Discuss the difference using quotes makes (it tells google to search for the exact keywords in the right order).
  6. Try typing a question into Google with some secondary valuesOrthographyMistake. What happens? What happens if you add or omit something?score?
  7. try thoseAGoogleADay.comDaily Google Search Challenges. Questions help older students select keywords, deconstruct questions, and change keywords.
  8. Learn how Google usesautocompleteto quickly suggest searches. Try it out by writing several queries(e.g. how to draw... or what is highest...).Discuss how these suggestions come about, how to use them, and whether they are often helpful.
  9. Seekit is videofrom Code.org for more informationhow the search works.
  10. Take a look20 Instant Google Searches Your Students Should Knowby Eric Curts to learn more about "instant searches“. Try one to test. Perhaps each student could be assigned one to try and share with the class.
  11. Experiment by typing some questions into google that have a clear answer(e.g. “What is a parallelogram?” or “What is the highest mountain in the world?” or “What is the population of Australia?”).Check out the different optionsResponses are displayed immediatelywithin the search results: dictionary definitions, picture maps, graphics, etc.
  • 50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (5)

  • 50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (6)

  • 50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (7)

(Video) The first 20 hours -- how to learn anything | Josh Kaufman | TEDxCSU

Dive in

50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (8)Which search results should you click and keep looking for?

  1. watch the videoHow does Google know everything about me?by Scientific American. discuss thearea of ​​the pageAlgorithm and how Google uses your data to personalize search results.
  2. Brainstorm a list ofpopulardomains(e.g. .com, .com.au or your country's domain). Discuss if one domain might be trusted more than others and why(z. B. .gov oder .edu).
  3. Discuss (or research) ways to open Google search results in anew tabto save the original search results(e.g. right-click > open link in new tab or ctrl/command-click the link).
  4. Try some google searches(Perhaps start with things like "car service," "cat food," or "fresh flowers.") TOAre you thereTo suewithin the results? Discuss where they appear and how to spot them.
  5. find waysFilterSearch results with theeyelashesat the top of the page on Google(i.e. News, Pictures, Shopping, Maps, Videos, etc.).Do all Google searches show the same filters? Try a few different searches and see.
  6. Type a question into Google and search for"People also ask" j "Search for …"sections. Discuss how these might be useful. When should you use them or ignore them so you don't drift off onto irrelevant tangents? Corresponds to the information in the drop-down area below"People also ask"always the best?
  7. often morecurrent search resultsthey are more useful. In the Google search box, click "Tools" and then click "Anytime" and the time period of your choice, e.g. B. "Last month" or "Last year".
  8. Ask students to write their own"Anatomy of a search result"Example like the one I made below. Explore the different ways search results are displayed; Some have more detail like site links and some don't.
50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (9)


50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (10)If you clicked a link and landed on a website, how do you know if it's providing the information you're looking for?

  1. Find two articles on a news topic from different publications. Or find a news article and an opinion article on the same topic. Do oneVenn diagramCompare similarities and differences.
  2. Select a chart, map, or tableLos New York Times'What is happening in this graphicSerie. Discuss the data with the whole class or a small group.
  3. Look at the pictures without captionWhat is happening in this picture?from the New York Times. Discuss the pictures in pairs or small groups. What can you say?
  4. Explore a website together as a class or in pairs, perhaps a news website. identify allTo sue.
  5. Take a lookfake websiteeither with the whole class or in pairs/small groups. See if the students can tell that these pages are fake. Discuss the fact that you can't believe everything online. start with thesefour examples of fake Eric Curts websites.
  6. Give the students a copy of myWebsite evaluation flowchartanalyze and then discuss in class. Read more about the flowchart belowthis post.
  7. View a message from as a classThe Four Moves by Mike Caulfield. Either together or in small groups, students havefact checkDirections on the website.this resourceexplains more about the fact checking process. Note: Some of these prompts are not appropriate for younger students.
  8. Practicefast reading— Give the students one minute to read a short article. Ask them to discuss what caught their attention. Headlines? Words in bold? quotes? Then give the students 10 minutes to read and discuss the same articledeep reading


50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (11)How can you write information in your own words (paraphrase or summarize), use direct quotations and cite sources?

All students can benefit from learning about plagiarism, copyright, writing information in their own words and acknowledging the source. However, the formality of this process depends on the age of your students and your curriculum guidelines.

  1. watch the videoAppointment for beginnersfor an introduction to the quote. Discuss the key points to remember.
  2. search forplagiarism definitionusing a variety of sources (dictionary, video, Wikipedia, etc.). Create a definition as a class.
  3. Find an interesting video on YouTube (maybe a "life hack" video) and write a short oneSummaryin his own words.
  4. Have the students pair up and tell each other about their weekend. Then have the listener try to verbalize or write down their friend's words.to countin his own words. Discuss how accurate that was.
  5. Read a well-known fairy tale to the class. Ask them to write a short textSummaryin his own words. Compare the versions that different students develop.
  6. ProveQuote generator— a handy free online tool with no ads that allows you to create appointments quickly and easily.
  7. Give a copy to elementary school studentsKathy Schrock Dating-Guidethat corresponds to your grade level (the guide covers grades 1-6). Choose a citation style and create some examples as a class(e.g. a website or a book).
  8. Make a list of things that are theregood and not gooddo when you researchB. Copy text from a website, use any image from google images, paraphrase in your own words and credit the source, add a short quote and credit the source.
  9. Have students read a short article and then formulate an abstract that would qualify as plagiarism and one that would not qualify as plagiarism. These can be shared with the class and students can be asked to decide which shows aexample plagiarism.
  10. Older students could study the difference betweenparaphrase and summarize. You could create a Venn diagram comparing the two. TheData sheet from the University of New Englandcould be a useful resource.
  11. Write on the board a list of statements that could be true or false (eg The 1956 Olympic Games were held in Melbourne, Australia. The rhino is the largest land animal in the world. The current marathon world record is 2 hours, 7 minutes).Have students research these statements and decide if they are trueright or wrongshare their quotes.

stay organized

50 mini-lessons to teach students research skills (12)How can you organize the valuable information you find online as you go through the research process?

  1. Make a list of the different choices you may haveobservewhen researching: Google Docs, Google Keep, pen and paper, etc. Discuss the pros and cons of each method.
  2. learn thiskeyboard shortcuts for managing tabs(e.g. open a new tab, reopen a closed tab, switch to the next tab, etc.).Maybe all students could try the shortcuts and share their favorite with the class.
  3. Find a collection of resources on a topic and add them to aWakelet. You can learn more about using Wakelet in the healing and research classroomthis post.
  4. Listen to a short podcast or watch a short video on a specific topic andsketchSylvia Duckworth has a great ideaTips for live sketching
  5. learn how to use itsplit screenOpen a window with your research and another with your notes(e.g. a Google Spreadsheet, Google Doc, Microsoft Word or OneNote, etc.).


All teachers know that it is important to teach students good inquiry. Investing time in this process will also pay off throughout the year and for years to come. Students can focus on the analysis and synthesis of information rather than the mechanics of the research process.

By trying as many of these mini-lessons as possible throughout the year, you are truly helping your students succeed in all areas of school, work, and life.

(Video) How to learn any language in six months | Chris Lonsdale | TEDxLingnanUniversity

Also, remember to model your own searches explicitly during class time. Speak out loud while searching for things and ask students for their opinions. Learning together is hip!

How could you fit some mini-lessons into your week?

What other ideas can you share to help students develop their research skills?

I would love to hear from you! Scroll down to find the comment box.

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  • The first explains a simple 5-step process forTeach students how to research and filter information.
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