Google Power Search

Near the end of the summer I heard several librarians mention the Power Searching with Google class available online. It sounded like something that was worth an investment of time. The ‘classes’ are activities spaced out over a two-week span. When the opportunity came around again for a fall class I signed up.

That was right as school was beginning when I wasn’t working full days yet.

I got the reminder email last week and wondered what I had gotten myself into. Book Fair week is coming and I have several weekends of plans. Not a lot of extra time. But, this past week the first class was posted online. The class consisted of 6 lessons and activities. Each lesson is a short video explaining and demonstrating a feature of Google search. The activities are quick reviews of practice or questions to answer. I think it took me less than an hour to do all six. At the same time I was watching Big Bang Theory……

The classes are available every other day. I’ve made it halfway through and passed my ‘midterm.’

It’s kind of funny to me that at the same time I was taking the first class I was also writing a lesson plan for 4th graders about choosing keywords to search. The same strategies that I teach students is what I was seeing in the video instructions for searching. Visualize the page you want to find and identify the keywords that are on that page. What will the title be? What words are side by side?

I learned a few new things about search. Word order does matter. I didn’t know that before. Articles do make a difference. The example given was searching for “who” (World Health Organization), “the who” (the band),  and “a who” (Horton Hears a Who movie). The top search results are all different.

I suggest that you sign up for the class the next time it starts and just go for it no matter what you’ve got going on in life. It’s really not so bad! You might even be able to jump in now and do the whole class this week.

Here’s my lesson for 4th grade….

The Common Craft video for Web Search Strategies: 

Then a demonstration of searching and how it’s important to choose the right words.

I do the “who” demonstration with students.

I give students their work pages and their first self-think activity. Brainstorm 5 words you could put in to the search box that would help answer this question: How fast does a wild cat run?

Students think and write for a few minutes. Then they share at their table and add their neighbor’s words to their list.

Each table shares one or two words for the list and I type them into a word document, flipchart, notebook file, etc. one the screen.

I talk through their choices and compliment them on putting “cat” in their search list because it’s a specific word from the question. Then I brag about the addition of “wildcat” to their list because it is more specific.  Gushing happens when I see the word “cheetah” on the list. I let them know how thrilled I am that they are using their prior knowledge to build a search to get the best answer to their question. They started with “cat” and got more and more specific so they could find their results quickly.

Now that we have the noun we need (cheetah) we search for the word that will give us the ‘what’ answer. Students have suggested “fast,” “miles,” and the winner, “speed.” I compliment them on not sticking with just the words from the question like “fast” but finding that word that will give them the result they need–which is measurement.

Before typing “cheetah speed” into the search box, I type in the entire question, “how fast does a wild cat run.”

I examine the results, which pop up as several sites of “answers.” I explain that those “answers” websites are people’s opinions. I let them know that I love the idea of asking someone’s opinion for something. But, I use this option when I want to figure out how to fix my vacuum cleaner, or get my Swiffer Wetjet bottles open to fill them with my own cleaning solution (which is really easy to do, by the way!).

For factual information for their research I want them to find more credible sources. So we use keywords.

Using “cheetah speed” resulted in a wikipedia and a National Geographic news article. I told them I was fine with Wikipedia for most of their inquiries. They picked to try the National Geographic news link.

Then I gave each table their “Google Challenge.” I simplified two questions from recent Google a Day postings.

Each group chose one of the questions and then wrote keywords based on the question and their own schema. As a class we chose the best ones for each challenge and then tried them out.

Shockingly to me this lesson fit in my 25 minute teaching time frame.

There are a number of ways to assess this lesson. I asked students in two classes to write a number from 1 to 5 showing how much they think they learned at the top of their paper. I should have added my usual rubric to their papers:
I can identify keywords to search online. 1 (don’t have a clue)     2     3     4     5 (I’m an expert)

You could grade papers. Give an exit ticket rubric. Give an exit ticket work sample just like one of the class search challenges. I think there are a lot if options for this one.

Here’s my work page for students!

Download @ Google Drive


  1. FABULOSO! Adding class to “must dos.”

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