Is Research Season underway at your schools?
February brings the start of a flurry of circulation, requests for articles, database mini-lessons and, of course, a time when the databases are celebrated, criticized – or – yikes, underutilized.
At the Lower School Campuses of my school, we have remained steadfast promoters of databases. At the First and Second Grade levels, we are teaching the compound word, breaking up it’s “big word feel” into something that feels approachable. We also teach the difference between a “search engine” and a “database” – which is an interesting conversation for another blog post!
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As we begin the Research Season, we ask our students to become the “Royalty of Research” and to become the academic researchers that we are teaching them to be. We also call to mind our Bolles Way which is “pursuing excellence through courage, integrity and compassion.” These practices set a foundation for our expectation of students as they begin to build practices of research.
We have a variety of digital resources for our students to use in tandem with print resources as required by their teachers. Our resources that have remained constant over the years are: Gale Elementary, PebbleGo and PebbleGoNext.
These have been excellent products that have stood the test of time (and changes in research focus), have excellent customer service, and truly improve and expand year over year. These products also routinely provide students with academic support needs various modalities in which to use the interfaces.
We enjoyed Britannica and Britannica Kids, but this year their pricing schedule jumped and it was time to go out into the marketplace and see what is currently available to Lower School students pursuing academic research.
After a quick request from the Listserv, I decided to initiate a trial with WorldBook and Ebsco.
Many of you may already enjoy this wonderful resource. We have not had it at the Lower School level here at my school. Brittanica got mixed reviews from teachers, so I decided to go ahead and try another encyclopedia. VERDICT: it has been fantastic! I highly recommend to schools seeking a companion to a more generalized database.
Gave us all the flexibility of an online encyclopedia with all the modality options as well as topical availability to match our research needs.
For example, our Fifth Graders do a research project in tandem with their reading of Lois Lowry’s NUMBER THE STARS. I did a quick preview of what students would encounter with WORLDBOOK with the search term “World War II” and found the resource friendly to navigate, friendly to evaluate (for type of material) and friendly to read. A win all around.
After poking around, I have determined EBSCO is a solid product for Middle and Upper School environments. I found navigational tools to be cumbersome for newer computer users, and frankly, the layouts were not designed for younger researchers. VERDICT: Not for us at the current moment. Great for our MS/US campuses to explore if they felt the need to add to their Gale suite.
I did a quick preview of what students would encounter with EBSCO for “World War II” research, and while would be very interesting for some of our students, the majority would be left frustrated and unsure of how to narrow down source material. Plus, the reading level of EBSCO’s overview articles was going to be just right for some and too high for most.
At the Lower School level, I work with teachers to scaffold lateral reading, citations, source evaluation and notetaking. When evaluating these two options, it was very clear that WorldBook would be the best option to provide students. It has been revealing to talk with teachers about student experiences during the trial – and how I can best leverage my budget to meet the research and informational needs of Lower School students.
What are the sources your Lower School students use for academic research?