Do I just Google that? Tools for Teaching Search Skills in the Primary Classroom

Nowadays many pupils, when given a research task, immediately might think to themselves, “I’ll just Google that.” Internet search engines (of which Google is only one of many) are powerful tools but many pupils use only a fraction of the power of them, and then can also have difficulty finding the information specific to the task. There are many resources now available to help in developing pupil skills in searching more effectively using online search engines. And, of course, when they do find information how do pupils know it is appropriate for the task? Or how do they evaluate what is suitable, and how do they present it and show where the information was found.

Tools to Help Teach Research Skills

The Big 6

One method of teaching information skills for investigating sources of information from databases, encyclopedias and the Internet is that known as “the Big Six.” This process sets out the steps as follows:

1. Define the task – what needs to be done?

2. Information Seeking Strategies – what resources can I use?

3. Location and Access – where can I find these resources?

4. Use of information – what can I use from these resources?

5. Synthesis – what can I make to finish the job?

6. Evaluation – how will I know I did my job well?

The Kentucky Virtual Library How to Do Research

The Kentucky Virtual Library has an online poster-style How to Do Research site for guiding younger pupils through the steps to finding the information they need on any topic, whether in print form, multimedia or online. Presented in a visual comic/game style it explains in child-friendly language the process to find the information being sought. And each page of advice is presented as a set of easy to digest straightforward steps, breaking down each task (whether finding the information, recording it, evaluating it, or presenting it) in cartoon-style visual interactive style making it attractive to primary users.

Finding Duclinea

Finding Dulcinea – How to Search the Internet – aimed at older pupils, this provides a host of helpful tips and links to a variety of resources about searching and using information from the Internet. It includes sections on What Is the Internet, Web Site Credibility, How Search Engines Work, Choosing a Search Engine, Online Databases, Social Bookmarking Tools, How to Cite a Source.

Ergo – Teaching Research Skills

Ergo – Teaching Research Skills from the State Library of Victoria, Australia, is a guide for pupils to finding the information they need for a school assignment. The guide provides helpful explanations, hints, tips and further resources for each of the steps: Define the task, Locate information, Select resources, Organise notes, Present the ideas, Evaluate your work.

Common Sense Media Digital Curriculum

Common Sense Media Digital Curriculum has a section on teaching online research for various age groups. Each section has lesson plans with ideas and resources for teaching different aspects of research online with pupils. Teachers can select resources according to age group or stage (all stages in primary school are included, and resources are age-appropriate), resources to support the research topics which best suit the needs of pupils.

All About Explorers

All About Explorers has been designed as an interactive Internet search task to guide pupils through making more discerning use of information presented online. The task includes a range of spoof material to help show primary pupils how to evaluate what they read online, and how to be selective about the information they find. The tasks are presented to pupils as an interactive Webquest. There is a section for teachers which includes a series of lessons and explanations of what the pupils are learning about better online searching as they complete each webquest.

Save the Tree Octopus – an example of a spoof website which could be used to show pupils that, even though the site looks very well put together and with a host of features to make it look authoritative, websites can provide completely fictitious information.

Ten Tips for Teaching How to Research and Filter Information

Ten Tips for Teaching Students How to Research and Filter Information – a post by Kathleen Morris which details advice for ten steps for showing primary school pupils how to find and use information: Search, Delve, Source, Validity, Purpose, Background, Teach, Justify, Path, Cite. 

Google Tools for Better Searching

Google has produced a series of posters for educators to help support pupils use the Internet search engine more effectively.

Google A Day is a daily-changing search challenge which could be used by a class to make better use of a search engine. Each day a new challenge is presented (and you can go back to previous challenges if you wish). Each challenge is presneted as a question which pupils are challenged to answer by using the search engine. If not sure how to get started pupils can click on the hint to get a bit of help to guide how to make a better search to find the answer. And the answer itself is provided. In addition there are links to tips and techniques for better Internet searching.

Google for Educators is a collection of resources collated by David Andrade on his Educational Technology Guy blog. This brings together a series of resources providing tips, ideas and guides to how the vast array of Google tools can be used in schools, including how to find what you’re wanting using  the search engine.

Interesting Ways to Use Google Search in the Classroom is a collection of ideas collected by Tom Barrett shared by many teachers – like others in the “Interesting ideas” series it grows as more teachers contribute ideas. So if you have a way you have used Google Search in your classroom then you too can add yours there too.

Google Guide is an online interactive tutorial and reference for experienced users, novices, and everyone in between. Nancy Blachman developed Google Guide to provide more information about Google’s capabilities, features, and services. There are hints and ideas, a printable sheet of tips,  and interactive exercises teachers can use with pupils to guide them them through making use of different techniques for more effective searching for information.

Entire Guide to Google Search Features for teachers and Students by Mohamed Kharbach details steps, tips and tools to make better use of the Google search engine, from the basics to advanced searching to using a variety of features of the search engine in many different contexts.

Google Search Education Evangelism is a site with lessons to download for free, including Powerpoint presentations and guides for printing about making the best of Google search tools. These are arranged in categories and for different audiences, whether teachers self-study or for use with pupils.

Google Search Education has lesson plans and video tutorials in categories of various search skills in using Google. Within each category there are then tutorials presneted to suit different skill levels.

10 Google Search Tips by Catlin Tucker provides 10 Questions & 10 Answers to Help You or your pupils Search Smarter!

12 Ways to use Google Search by Degree of Difficulty is a series of lessons by Jeff Dunn providing graded techniques for being better at using the search facility with Google – for each step there are three levels of difficulty so you just choose which best suits your need for your class.

PhD in Googling! An Animated presentation on tips to using Google search engine. Thanks to David Andrade for sharing this. PhD in Googling presents a series of graphically interesting screens with nugget-sized tips on each page, and with animated text appearing, explaining the tip.

Update Your Search methods – a blog post by Chris Betcher explaining how in 2013 Google changed the way the seacrh engibe works to better interpret plain English questions, the way someone would ask a question if speaking, rather than relying on keywords.

Get More Out of Google is a poster with advice and practical tips for making more eficient use of Google search engine.


  1. Viv Hall says:

    Totally agree with your blog. So many people, students and adults alike, resort to “googling it”.
    Concerned at the lack of students making informed choices, we reviewed Common Sense Media, and have used several of the Digital Research Units. I like the way they scaffold the units enabling you to build on the main ideas. We’ve also found their parents advice section useful for our parent community.

  2. Mike Hobbins says:

    Such a thought-provoking blog.

    As teachers, I think we can be quite ‘lazy’ at times and expect the children to “find the answer” to their research via simple searches within Google, etc.

    Research needs to be structured and guided by the teacher; your suggestions are timely and I will certainly be analysing all the different strategies you have provided in your blog.

    Thank you so much.

    Mike Hobbins

  3. I definitely think some of these resources would be useful to apply in my classroom of 10 graders. With the Common Core standards upon us, basic research skills will be huge! Excellent blog post. Thanks for the resources!

  4. Dr. Jacqui Cyrus says:

    Thanks for sharing such an interesting resource. I can use these tools with my undergraduate pre-service education teachers.

  5. Ellie Russell (@EllieERussell) says:

    Great collection of resources. We’re focusing on these skills with our older students too. Some of these links look they’ll provide perfect prompts for our skills lessons.

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