Unit Guide for Teachers

Overview: Teachers develop their units of study to sometimes include a WebQuest or two in support of the overall unit plan. This WebQuest was created as the unit of study. It includes the normal WebQuest activities of student inquiry and project creation while also incorporating the teacher facilitated lessons provided outside of the WebQuest.

As it is an extensive WebQuest taking several weeks of time inside and outside of the classroom, it can easily be run concurrently with a teacher’s own Middle Ages unit plan. If you are starting from scratch, then the teacher-led lessons on the Process page of the WebQuest could be used or supplemented with your own to meet your curricular guidelines. The content for the specific lessons I teach for this unit is not provided here in Curriki but in time will be added. :-) I use the term "our city" throughout the WebQuest so that it is generic for students no matter their location.

Note: A one Web page version of this WebQuest is also available if you would rather see it all in one place.

Technology & Various Literacies: I developed this unit/WebQuest for Middle School students in a Mac 1:1, international school so there are several technologies and literacies (i.e, visual/media, information, design & technology) included which are embedded across our school’s curriculum and supportive of our school-wide learning outcomes. With many efforts in the US and internationally to shift our schools to provide students 21st Century Skills, I hope this WebQuest can support your current efforts or possibly be a starting place to integrate some of them into your social studies curriculum.

Two key partners for Information and Communication Literacies (ICL) integration are one’s Library Media Specialist and Instructional Technologist (IT). They can help in the curriculum meetings to design the units and to then co-teach your students the various skills that they will need to participate in this WebQuest in its current status. One can of course lessen the technology and research nature of this to some degree. Yet, I can say that I am moving to a new international school with very limited technology resources and I plan to run this WebQuest very close to the way I ran it in a 1:1 school. Much more of this work will simply need to be completed outside of the school where students will be able to use their home computers.

One central theme to the technology is that it allows for collaboration and 24/7 teacher access to student work for formative assessment. As a real believer in the power of mind/concept mapping, I chose to use an online mapping tool called Mindmeister that allows students the spatial note taking power of a mind map while also allowing them to share it with their partners and their teacher. The weakness of taking notes through a Web-based tool is that students must have a computer where they are doing their research.

If you are not a 1:1 laptop school this means you will need enough workstations in your library or you can get computer lab time while rolling your reserved books into the lab for student access. I will see in my new school how this will work out. My students will definitely be advised to save their research using Web sites and online databases for when they are at their home computers.

There are several other online mind mapping collaborative tools other than Mindmeister. Check out Jane Hart’s listing of mind mapping tools for further choices. One that is not listed is put out by the folks at Inspiration and it is called Webspiration. Some of these options are free and others have a small cost so really check them out to see which one will best meet your needs. In the case of Mindmeister, you can hold up to 6 mind maps in your account at a time. This works fine for students as I have them export their mind maps from time to time to keep them below at their limit especially as a shared map from a classmate is counted towards your 6 maps. I end up having hundreds of mind maps shared with me throughout the course of a year as I use them a great deal. This means that I do sign up for a yearly subscription which is well worth the cost.

Note: See examples of what student Mindmeister research maps look like at the end of this document.

One free alternative to using online mind maps is to use Google Docs. You lose the manipulative nature of digital mind maps but free is free and Google docs are terrific for collaboration.

Whichever tool you choose, your students will need email accounts to register their accounts. This is where planning with your Instructional Technologist (IT) comes into play. As Google Docs and Gmail are just a few of the educational tools provided by Google, it really makes sense to learn more about Google Apps for Schools. The Google Apps suite of free tools includes Blogger for your students’ blogs and Sites for your students’ electronic portfolios. Your Instructional Technologist can create and teach a series of lessons to register your students for whichever online tools they need as well as teach them how to use them.

Other technologies your IT can help with are podcasting, electronic portfolios and blogging. One of the great things about electronic portfolios is they provide a place for student created media and other work that can be shared with the larger community. There are many other benefits but for this WebQuest students create a podcast that can be uploaded to the portfolios. My students use software called GarageBand that comes with their Mac laptops to record their podcasts. Look to work with your IT to create a lesson on how to record podcasts whether using GarageBand or the free Audacity (Mac and Windows) or possibly using VoiceThread depending on your access to the school server to post the podcasts.

Your Instructional Technologist will provide the guidance and lesson(s) to make doing podcasts a possibility for your students. Take a look at the tutorial provided here in Curriki to begin your understanding. As for blogging and their value to student learning, one can search the Web for reasons why student, teacher and administrative blogging is so valuable for learning and communication. Connecting to the 6 Traits, it is really fun to read the student blogs for this WebQuest as they write in the voice of their role (e.g., farmer, artisan, noble, etc.). One way I support the ongoing learning of social studies in my class is to have students reading newspapers, blogs and listening to news podcasts which they reflect upon and write daily about in their blogs.

ESPRAT+G: A teaching colleague shared this construct with my wife and I many years ago as one way to give students a framework for understanding the study of social studies. In many ways it provides students the same structure as the 6+1 Traits do for students in their writing. I put together the ESPRAT+G Web Site with more information on this framework.

Historical Novel: My students read the Blood Red Horse during this WebQuest but clearly a variety of other books could be chosen by the various reading levels of your students.

Simulations: The four simulations offer some ideas to design scenarios that help guide your students to deeper understandings as they engage in their roles. They also offer the opportunity to bring the students in as curriculum designers and creators.

Resource Information:

Unit Plan including standards (UbD Designed)


Middle Ages WebQuest - See this WebQuest formatted on the Web for students to use.

The Rubistar template creator was used to create the rubrics for this WebQuest.

Mindmeister Screenshots








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