Website review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2020

Web for Classrooms

Student-friendly research site keeps kids focused with quality content

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Grades
Pre-K–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Leveled, ad-free content provides students with relevant material that's just right for their reading level.

Cons: Because it lacks some classroom-friendly features, supporting students in their research might be a challenge.

Bottom Line: Low-frills site takes the distraction out of web research while providing kids with credible, age-appropriate resources.

Teachers can find any number of uses for Web for Classrooms. For younger students, start with warm-ups that can be answered by typing in a query. For instance, ask students to find images of three invertebrates, and present the pictures with short captions using a tool like Buncee. Then, as students become more confident, assign mini-research projects where kids have to gather, synthesize, and report on a topic.

For older elementary and middle school students, have kids find three facts before beginning a new unit, and share them with the class via a collaborative Google Slides presentation. Or create KWL charts and have kids complete them in small groups. For high school students, the site's searches can support any number of research-related tasks, but it's best to be deliberate about what you want students to understand before they start looking. With nearly eight million linked resources, kids will need guidance on how to best search for and organize information. Since the site lacks teacher oversight capabilities, plan on providing support for students who are trying to make sense of the information they gather. Because the search results are limited, it will work best for more straightforward, factual research rather than nuanced research on controversial topics (e.g., for a persuasive essay).

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Web for Classrooms is a search engine kids can use to find age-appropriate, leveled, credible sources of information. The interface is simple: Students log in, choose their age, enter a search query, and view the results. Searches return results that may contain basic, in-depth, background, or related information, depending on the query.  Searches lead to results from sites such as Kidzsearch, Britannica, and Geogebra, so you don't need to worry about your students coming across inappropriate content when they're doing their research. Results are also color-coded by reading level from starter (yellow) to expert reader (black). This means kids can adjust the reading difficulty of their content to meet them where they are. Subscription pricing keeps results free of advertisements and links to online shopping pages.

Solid research begins with effective searches. Since Web for Classrooms takes much of the noise and clutter out of search results, it's easier for kids to pinpoint important information. Being able to tailor results to students' age and reading-readiness levels helps even more, especially for ELL students or students who have special needs: No one has to know whether students choose higher or lower readability options. The fact that students will be directed to credible sources and trustworthy sites should give teachers confidence when kids are doing research. There's a much lower chance of being exposed to questionable content, and teachers can feel assured that the sites have been vetted for quality. Plus, there are no entertainment or social websites, so it's a great way to minimize distraction. Note: Games are included if they adhere to sound learning principles.

A few things could improve the experience. For example, the site could offer tips for students about how to perform search queries with effective keywords or how to evaluate resources and cite sources. Ideas for organizing research or adhering to copyright guidelines would also be helpful. It would be great to have a way to organize your sources into folders or to save favorite resources. Since that feature is missing, students will need to use a workaround like Notebook or Wakelet to keep their research organized in one place. And the search results themselves are necessarily limited, so there may be times when students have a hard time finding helpful information about more controversial, nuanced topics. Finally, while students are learning the research process, it's great to have a resource like Web for Classrooms to pare down the search results. However, as students get older and gain experience, it becomes essential for them to learn to navigate a web search. So, while this tool is useful and serves a specific purpose, teachers will still need to to help students learn the process of researching effectively.

Overall Rating

Engagement

While not all students enjoy the research process, most will appreciate the variety of immediate, relevant resources they get from a quick keyword search.

Pedagogy

It's a great way for students to gain access to leveled reading material and practice research skills without being overwhelmed by search results. 
 

Support

The ability to level results accommodates needs of both struggling and advanced readers. Linked sites vary in built-in support and accessibility features. 


Common Sense reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Instructional Technology Facilitator

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