Lesson at a Glance

Students use the Internet to search for relevant evidence to include in their editorials. After learning how to use search engines to find websites on their topics, students evaluate the websites for trustworthiness.

Notes:
(1) If you do not have enough computers for every student to work independently, have students work in pairs, guiding one another in finding and evaluating websites on their topics. Students may also use print sources, evaluating them using criteria similar to the ones used with web material.

(2) If the technology in your school is readily available, have students collect the names and URLs of sites they are researching in a word processing document which can be uploaded to the Online Classroom, saved locally or printed and attached to their notebooks. By eliminating the errors that commonly come with handwriting web addresses, research can be more efficient.

Prep & Tech

Technology: LCD projector, laptop, Internet access or Writing Editorials CD, student computers with Internet access
In Class Handouts: 2.1a: Evaluate Sources (multiple copies per student), 2.1b: Editorial Rubric Other Materials: Student folders, writers’ notebooks, list of good search terms on your topic for the Teacher Model

Limited Tech Options

If there is no access to the technology needed for this lesson, try the following options:

  1. Mini Lesson: Show the introductory animated program from the Writing Editorials CD. Instead of using search engines to model selecting and evaluating a source, model using print resources from the library. Search the library for an article, magazine or book that might be appropriate for your topic and model evaluating that source.
  2. Writer’s Work Time: Instead of directing students to the website to search for information, work with the school media specialist/librarian to prepare books, encyclopedias, reference volumes, newspapers and magazines for students to use for research. In addition, prior to this lesson, encourage students to bring in relevant research materials from their local library or from home.

Objective

Students will determine whether or not websites on their topics are reliable sources for their editorials.

Focusing Question

How do you know if you can trust the information you find on the Internet?

Mini Lesson (10 min)

Show lesson visuals, Evaluate Internet Sources.

Tell students that in this step they will research their topics using the Internet, magazines, newspapers and books. Explain that in today’s lesson, students will search the Internet to gather evidence in support of the opinions they express in their editorials. Show the introductory animation for Step 2, Gather Evidence. Explain that students need to look for expert opinions, stories, statistics and facts from “reliable” or trustworthy websites.

Display the mentor text “Dying Young” from the Editorials Packet (Handout 1.1a) or another mentor text from Prof. P’s Office. Indicate where the author referred to a trustworthy Internet source. Explain that not all sources on the Internet are accurate and/or truthful - noting that URLs ending in - .edu, .gov or .k12 generally are. Tell students that they need to check out each source before beginning to take notes, because including reliable information will make their editorials more persuasive.

Explain that search engines help people find specific information on the Internet. Some examples of search engines are www.google.com, www.ask.com and www.yahoo.com.

Demonstrate finding trustworthy websites by performing an Internet search for your topic. Using Evaluate Sources (Handout 2.1a) as a guide, review aloud the content of one of the links. Determine if the information seems trustworthy and appropriate to your topic. Record your thinking on the handout.

Have students evaluate at least four websites and record their findings on Evaluate Sources (Handout 2.1a).

Teacher Model

  1. Using a computer with an LCD projector, type a short and appropriate keyword into a search engine.
  2. Scan the search results to determine which websites might be relevant and appropriate.
  3. Choose one web resource and think aloud about whether the information seems trustworthy and relevant to your topic by asking the following questions:
    1. Does this site contain information that is relevant to my topic?
    2. Who sponsors this site? What is the URL suffix? .com? .edu? .gov?
    3. Is this site trying to sell something?
    4. Does this site have a political agenda?
    5. Who writes for this site? Are the facts on this site from reputable people and other sources?
    6. Is there a date on the site? When was it last updated?
  4. Explain that the sponsor is often listed at the bottom of the site.
  5. Record your responses on Evaluate Sources (Handout 2.1a). If students have easy access to their own laptops or they are able to print, demonstrate how to copy and paste the URLs they find into a word processing document along with the name of the site. Show how you print the document and attach it to your notebook.
  6. If time permits, select one additional site from your list and indicate why it is not trustworthy.

Narrative

I am going to look for information on my topic, subway overcrowding. I will go to Google and type these search terms “New York subway overcrowding statistics.” I want to make sure that the sources

I use are trustworthy so that my editorial will be persuasive. Looking at the search results, I like the fifth one from the New York State Comptroller. That sounds like a trustworthy source to me; it sounds like the government, but I want to check it using Handout 2.1a, Evaluate Sources. These questions will help me see if I can trust the information. By filling out this handout, I will also be able to remember how to find this website in the future.

I will write down the search terms I just used to find this website address. It is: www.osc.state.ny.us/osdc/rpt700/rpt700.htm. Now, I will look to see how the website address, called a URL, ends. If a URL ends in .gov it means that the government publishes the website. The ending .edu means that a college or school created the website. These websites are usually trustworthy. The website I found ends in state.ny.us so I am not sure that it can be trusted even though it sounds sort of official. Let me see if I can tell who publishes the website. This publisher is the State of New York. I think that makes it more trustworthy than if an individual person published the website.

I am going to try and find the author and the date. This report is by Carl McCall, the New York State Comptroller. He published it in 1999. That is pretty recent, so the information should be up to date. By quickly looking at the report I think that it can be used for facts or statistics on subway overcrowding in New York. After I find a few websites I can trust, I will take notes on this report.

Preparing for Writer’s Work Time

Distribute Evaluate Sources (Handout 2.1a). Ask students to:

  1. Select keywords related to their topic.
  2. Use a search engine to find websites on their topic.
  3. Scan the search results and choose one website that might be appropriate.
  4. Scan the website to determine if the source is trustworthy by asking the following questions:
    1. Does this site contain information that is relevant to my topic?
    2. Who sponsors this site? What is the URL suffix? .com? .edu? .gov?
    3. Is this site trying to sell something?
    4. Does this site have a political agenda?
    5. Who writes for this site? Are the facts on this site from reputable people and other sources?
    6. Is there a date on the site? When was it last updated?
  5. Record search terms, web addresses and answers to the questions on the handout. (If students have easy access to their own laptops or they are able to print, have them copy and paste the URLs they find into a word processing document along with the names of the sites. Have them save the document and/or print the document and attach it to their notebooks.)
  6. Return to the search engine and select another website to evaluate.
  7. Complete this process with at least four websites.

Writer’s Work Time (25 min)

Students work independently to find relevant and trustworthy sources. Using Evaluate Sources (Handout 2.1a), students analyze several sites to determine their reliability. Circulate among students and confer specifically on the evaluation criteria they are using. Look for two students to share their evaluations during the lesson summary.

Individual conferences: Review students’ Evaluate Sources (Handout 2.1a) and assess the
trustworthiness of the selected websites. Make suggestions about which of the selected sites appear most reliable, and if necessary, how to find additional or more targeted sites.

Differentiated Instruction Strategies

  1. Difficulty evaluating sources? Encourage students to read the home page more carefully, paying particular attention to headings, sidebars and dates. Remind students to ignore advertisements and unrelated links.
  2. Struggling with searching? Form a guided writing group in which struggling students can help each other in selecting narrow search terms that provide good results. Sometimes students have more trouble searching on their own topics than on a classmate's topic.
  3. Ready for more? Students who have found several reliable sources can begin to read the information presented on these sites. Students may also visit the Study Center for additional activities such as Persuade Me or What’s the Message?

Sharing and Lesson Summary (10 min)

Reconvene the class. Distribute the Editorial Rubric (Handout 2.1b). Review the general sections and criteria of a top (4) rating. Explain how the evidence gathered from the web sources will back up students’ opinions. Point out the matching criterion on the rubric. Then, have students work with a classmate to review one of the mentor texts from the Editorials Packet (Handout 1.1a), matching it with one or two rubric criteria.

Assessment

Review students’ Evaluate Sources (Handout 2.1a) to ensure that they understand the criteria for site selection. Check that each student has at least one trustworthy source before moving on to Lesson 2.2. Use the Teacher’s Checklist to identify what students have completed to this point.

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