In general, teachers can use PebbleGo's databases to teach kids about research, reporting, and citing sources. For beginning researchers, give students a chance to explore topics according to their interests and come up with two to three fun facts to share with their classmates. As their skills mature, challenge kids to use the biography database to research three people they've never heard of, and play a guessing game with the facts they submit. For a more structured activity, have each student complete one of the report templates available on the site; put the reports together to create a reference wall for your current unit of study.
Students can do research on their own or in small groups, in the classroom or at home. Younger kids might benefit from more guided searches and specific assignments, while older students might enjoy more freedom to search according to their own interests. Kids can also share their reflections on their research process and contribute to a class list of "pro tips" for using the site. Helping students develop effective research skills can be overwhelming, but PebbleGo's colorful design, easily navigable topics, and just-right amount of information make the process less daunting for teachers and learners alike.
PebbleGo is a kid-friendly, searchable database that covers a variety of research topics in both English and Spanish. Five main modules -- animals, science, biographies, social studies, and dinosaurs -- are divided into topics and subtopics. For example, students can narrow their biography search to women scientists or their dinosaur search to long-necked titanosaurs. Every subtopic presents a five-part report with text, photos, media, links to similar topics, printable assessment sheets, and a correct citation. As kids navigate across the images, they'll hear the topic described. Each module also includes some simple games, an article of the day, a search field, and a question of the day related to article topics. For example, in the science database, there's a poll titled "What is your weather today?"
Kids can read on their own or choose to have text highlighted and read to them. The modulated speech can help students improve reading fluency, but since students can't change the speed, some might find it too slow or too fast. Teacher resources on the administrative side include comprehensive lesson plans, printable activity sheets, and some basic overall usage statistics that include login frequency and popular articles.
PebbleGo is a wonderful, fun introduction to the world of database research, where students can search, learn, and explore in a safe, kid-friendly environment. The topics vary enough that most kids will find something of interest, and the multiple modes of presentation such as text, read-aloud, images, and videos make it all easily accessible. Kids don't log on with individual accounts, and while this helps keep the site safe and private, there's no way to assess learning online or track kids' search paths. Teachers can use the printable assessment sheets to gauge what kids are learning, and the blog offers lots of creative ideas to make research engaging.
Giving kids practice conducting research and then reporting on it is an important exercise; it's something they'll certainly do a lot in their academic lives. Younger kids, though, will likely need lots of scaffolding from teachers. The games, while engaging, may not do much to spark critical thinking. They seem more likely to keep kids occupied with related educational material than to immerse them in embedded research skills. Taken as a whole, however, the intuitive user interface and wealth of standards-based content make PebbleGo a solid engagement tool for foundational research skills.
Key Standards Supported
Reading Informational Text
With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.
With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).
With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.
With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.
Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.
Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.
Identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.
Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
With prompting and support, read informational texts appropriately complex for grade 1.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.
Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.
Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.
By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 2–3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
Distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.
Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 2–3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.