Lesson Plan

Information Literacy Project

Creating a digital trail for research
Kathleen G.
Classroom teacher
California State University Fresno
Fresno, CA
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My Subjects English Language Arts

According to the American Library Association, Information Literacy is “a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” To this end, this unit will address the following learning objectives.

Students will be able to...

  • recognize when information is needed.
  • locate needed information.
  • use the CRAAP detection method to evaluate sources of information.
  • summarize research.
  • synthesize research.
  • collaborate effectively.
  • reflect on their learning.

Note: This assignment was adapted from Joanna Burkhart and Mary MacDonald’s Teaching Information Literacy: 50 Standards-Based Exercises for College Students

English Language Arts
Social Studies
Grades 7 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Identifying a Topic for Research

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Context: this project needs to grow out of an engaging unit rather than being a separate unit on "information literacy." Embedding instruction on information literacy in a unit on a literary text, historical event, scientific experiment, or some other learning experience encourages students to think of themselves as knowledge makers. The hook for this project, then, is an engaging unit that you already teach that tends to provoke questions. 

Step One: as you teach your unit, give students time to "wonder" or question about the unit content. Keep a record of these questions on a class wiki. 

Step Two: at some point in the unit, divide students into groups and have them brainstorm about the topic they would like to pursue in their research project. The group should identify a topic interesting to all group members 

Step Three: Groups should set up a wiki, making sure that all group members have been added as contributors. They should send the URL to the teacher who can publish links to all groups on the class wiki. 


2 Developing a Research Question

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Step One: Individual students brainstorm about the topic using an online mind map to develop an open-ended research question. Each group member will use either bubbl.us or mindomo. They will publish the URL on a "Planning and Discovery" page of the group wiki and then use the discussion function to comment on each other’s work (pointing out similarities and differences).

Step Two: As one last step to assure that the group has identified a rich research question, students could use the questions on this website to finalize their research question. 


3 Google Searches and CRAAP Detection

Activity: Investigating

Step One: Ask students to use Google to find tips for doing Google Searches. Here's one article (among many) that you could share as the kind of thing you'd like them to find. Use the wiki to create a list of the best search tips. 

Step Two: Introduce the idea of CRAAP Detection, an acronym developed by Howard Rheingold to serve as a reminder of what we should consider when we evaluate the credibility of websites. 

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Point of View

Part I: Ask students to investigate a number of websites that are appropriate for their grade level using CRAAP Detection. Possible websites to explore

Part II: Practice your CRAAP detection skills by determining whether these quotes/"facts" are true or false. 

  • Chief Seattle was a famed American Indian orator who gave a speech asserting that the land is sacred. Be ready to share how you made your determination.
  • “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” This powerful quote originated with Nelson Mandela. Be ready to share how you made your determination. 
  • After John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence (with that famed enormous signature), he said, “There, I guess King George will be able to read that!” Be ready to share how you made your determination.

4 Summarizing Research in an Annotated Bibliography

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Give students time to research, making sure that they realize they need to keep track of the decisions they make about which sources are reliable and which aren't. On the wiki, they should make two pages:

  1. An annotated bibliography of relevant and useful sources that includes 10 sources. Provide links to the actual documents when possible.
  2. An annotated bibliography of less relevant and not-useful sources that includes 5 sources. Provide links to the actual documents when possible.

Teachers need to use a mentor text to help students understand the genre of Annotated Bibliographies. 

Ask guiding questions about these examples:

  • What is repeated in each entry? Why?
  • What happens in the annotation? 
  • How do you think the writers created this annotated bibliography? What steps/resources do you think they used?

Have students use Easybib to create the bibliography--to which they can add the annotations. 

5 Synthesizing Research to Create a Research Outline

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Supplies needed: 

Markers for each group

One sheet of Poster Paper for each group

Use a four square activity to help students synthesize what they have read about their specific topic. Within the group, students need to take responsibility for four different articles they've read that seem to connect in some way. Each student (or pair of students if the groups have more than 4 members) should work with one article. The group members draw four squares, each embedded in the previous squares, on their poster paper. 

Click on this square for a link to an image:

Each person claims one side of the square:

  • In the outermost square, record one quote from your assigned article (a passage that you think expresses the main idea of the article).
  • Read each other's quotes and underline/highlight what you think is important in the quote.
  • In the next square, record another passage from the text, something that you learned from the article.
  • Read each other's quotes and underline/highlight what you think is important in the quote.
  • In the next square, summarize what you think your article is about in your own words.
  • Read each other's quotes and underline/highlight what you think is important in the quote.
  • In the next square, write a synthesis of what you think all the articles have in common. 
  • Read each other's syntheses and underline/highlight what you think is important in each.
  • In the square in the center, write a phrase that reflects the topic of the four articles. 

Using what they've learned from this activity, students should create an outline of their research on the wiki (if you'd like to have students use a digital tool for this step, check out Noodle Tools). They should document where they found specific information (linking to websites). This is like a regular outline only you will include citations for each piece of information to identify your sources.

6 Reflection

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Note: since this is a project that focuses on information literacy, it's up to each teacher whether they want students to actually write up the research findings (based on the outline). 

This is what I had my students do to reflect on what they learned about research:

Step One:  Students should embed a group spreadsheet in their wiki with a row for each member of the group. Create a column for each of the following: planning, search, discovery, and evaluation of sources. Each member fill this out as a research journal, paying specific attention to the challenges encountered while they researched and how they problem solved. When each student is done with their part of the journal, each student should read and summarize one column in a new summary row. They should discuss these questions: What successes and problems did the group encounter? What might that tell you about your research instruction in the past?

Step Two: reflect on the research process. What information/sources were most helpful to you? What gaps still exist in your research? Have you changed anything in how you search, evaluate, and use information? What advice would you want to give your future students about research? How did collaborating with a group affect your research process? As a group, write a research summary that accounts for each member of the group's experience as a researcher.