Getting Away From the Endless Hunt

This post is based on an email conversation with one of our Social Studies teachers. Neither of us is happy with the quality of research projects that many of the 9th graders turn in. For next year – I have an idea.

If you read my last blog post, The Sanctity of Time, you will see that I am beginning to associate poor research with poor reading skills and habits. I’ve always instinctively felt that it’s better for kids to start with books and then go to computers. On the other hand – why should the format of information matter? After all, encylopedias, books and periodicals are all available now on the net as well as on our shelves. I was considering trashing any requirement to use books as well as internet sources. Why require books? Is it because I personally prefer reading hard copy rather than reading from a screen? Am I foisting out-dated research techniques on the net generation?

Ultimately – I have decided that the requirements are still valid – but not because of the format. I now think the problem is a lack of serious interaction with text – no matter what format it is in. The problem is the endless hunt which sucks up thinking time.

Guess what? Teachers and librarians can fix that. We need to create more opportunities for kids to get away from the hunt and interact with the information they find – reading, highlighting, taking notes etc. We can create opportunities for them to progress from general overviews to more detailed sources. Sometimes librarians and teachers can choose preliminary readings for them. Sometimes kids could spend 15 minutes or so to locate an article themselves and print it out. Sometimes we could require that the sources be from a physical book or an online database. Other times the information could be from the web. Either way – the article needs to be a general overview of their topic. Once they have a printed article in their hands, students would then be required to sit at the tables, read their articles, highighting,taking margin notes, asking questions etc. Once they have a beginning understanding of their topic – THEN they can go back to the computers and search for more books, periodicals or venture forth onto Google.

Again – the problem isn’t format. It’s taking the time to read and think. Our kids suffer way too much from the “I love to hunt – but I really don’t want to deal with all that bloody meat” syndrome.

2 thoughts on “Getting Away From the Endless Hunt

  1. I totally agree with your comments. As a reading teacher-now-librarian I have begun to see the need for students to be taught how to interact with text prior to taking notes. Recently I taught a lesson to 4th graders as they prepared for notetaking – about reading strategies for reading for information. I plan to incorporate more of these reading strategy lessons into my curriculum. I also teach them double entry notes in which they must show their thinking after they jot down information. It’s a start…!

  2. In my experience, books are almost always better for research than an online search. Web sites and article archives are designed to be “bite-sized” – a page or a post or a short something that can be read quickly and easily and understood without effort. A book, by comparison, usually offers hundreds of pages of concentrated information. Both sources are useful (and the internet offers some really cool stuff – Project Gutenberg even has the writings of Queen Elizabeth’s personal historian, which, awesome.) But if students are neglecting the book-search it’s their loss.

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