A few weeks ago we asked our Year 8 class to nominate how they selected a website from a Google search result. With puzzled looks on their faces, the majority of the class responded, “We click on the first one”. When we stopped to discuss the reasons for their website choices most students explained, “I click on the first link because that would probably be the most relevant”. Although a couple of students claimed that they occasionally “skimmed the descriptions under the website headings” before making their choice, they were in the minority.
So here’s a strategy we used to teach our students to more closely read a list of search results BEFORE making that first click.
We prepared a task sheet adapted from a resource provided by Assistant Professor Julie Coiro. Here is a link to a copy of our Task sheet and a link to Julie’s really practical website brimming with great ideas for teaching online reading comprehension.
The students completed the tasksheet in pairs by closely reading the list of search results, discussing their answers and then recording their justifications. As a whole class we discussed their answers. Through sharing the results of this simple, speedy pen and paper online reading comprehension task we made many discoveries.
We learned that
- most students knew what a PDF was, but didn’t know that “edu” in a web address represented all educational institutions, not just schools.
- most students knew that words from a search query are shown in bold in the results, but they didn’t closely read the website snippets to find pertinent information.
- most students knew they needed to read beyond the website titles to identify relevant information, but one pair of students needed to be explicitly shown how to read aloud the URLs website descriptions in order to understand the information.
Knowing how to select the most relevant website from a list of search results is a critical skill when reading on the Internet. It is one we intend to return to as we explicitly teach online reading comprehension.