Web Searching Strategies for Elementary School Students

Information is ALL around us. Actually there is SO much information, that most people are overwhelmed with locating, saving, organizing and then later on retrieving it.


Searching and research skills are becoming more and more important. Even first graders at our school are being asked to research in order to produce some sort of report.

Most reports will need to be written out on the traditional piece of paper. Occasionally, the assignment becomes creative and asks students to make a poster, a model, or a diorama. Some teachers are now venturing into integrating new media and allowing students to create different kinds of “reports’ that demonstrate their knowledge (or recount) of the information they have found. Ex. PowerPoint slideshow, PhotoStory movie, podcast audio


Until recently classes were sent to the library to check out pre-selected books that would have some information about their topic.

Allowing students to search for their information on  the web makes teachers often uncomfortable.

  • They can’t control the content, students encounter
  • Overwhelming number of search results
  • Inappropriate sites
  • Inaccurate information
  • Citation

All the above mentioned reasons are valid points, but can’t be used as a reason to “stick to the book” when allowing younger students to research.

We do have to prepare them for research in media that is current for our times and one they most likely will use as as their primary source for gathering information as they grow.

Are books still your PRIMARY source when YOU gather information?

In our elementary school we are using the following search tools :

The customized Google Search engine is designed specifically for our students. The search is narrowed down to give results only from specific domains, handpicked by our teachers.

As part of a plan to continue to introduce and reinforce information literacy among our students, here are several resources for teachers and students to improve their searching skills on the web.

  • Keywords that are effective “as is”
  • Intermediate words that represent important ideas but probably are not effective “as is”
  • Words that have little effect on the outcome
  • Stop words that are ignored by a search engine

It is important to point out and practice the distinction of these words with your students. Check out the following Keyword Challenge site. It is a great sample of how to show examples and practice with our students.

  • CommonCraft – Web Search Strategies in Plain English

  • Patrick Woessner’ Effective Search Strategies from Technology in the Middle is geared towards 7th graders, but definitely adaptable to elementary school students.


What are some search strategies that you are using to prepare elementary students in becoming efficient and productive web searchers?