Research Skills Grades 6 – 9

Middle grade students will need to know:

  1. how to define a research problem, locate information in their school learning commons or database of choice,
  2. how to select appropriate resources,
  3. how to organize their notes and,
  4. how to present their work to their peers,
  5. how to accept feedback from their peers or teacher, 
  6. how to edit their work for mistakes.
  • They will need to understand how to assess websites they are using with regards to the accuracy of the website, the validity/reliability and the purpose of that website.
  • Students are also graded for their list of references or bibliography, so understanding how to set up an MLA formatted bibliography is very important.

BC’s Modernized Curriculum incorporates Inquiry as a means of helping our students move into the next chapter of acquiring deep understanding and knowledge. (Focus On Inquiry Galileo)

Three Types of Inquiry

  1. Universal Inquiry
  2. Maker Education (Minimally Guided)
  3. Discipline-Based Inquiry
Universal Inquiry – How do we help students learn more about Universal Inquiry?
  1. Take advantage of all the amazing resources we have collated for you and tie into their natural questions and passions.  These include Capstone Publications and inquiry-based picture books.
  2. Work with your teacher to help outline the projects and allow for a deeper level of learning.  Some of the project based learning workbooks will allow for this inquiry model but will still require active student engagement.
  3.  Choose one of our science or social study kits to find wondering questions, activities, and projects.
  4. Choose a theme by finding an interest for your primary student using picture books, both fiction and non-fiction.  For example, if you wanted to start the school off learning about apples read some books about apples.  Learn math by cutting apples into sections and percentages.  Learn about seasonal changes that go with apples and fall.  Write a recipe for applesauce.
  5. Contact Pippa or Cynthia so we can help your students develop a model for their projects and presentations.
  6. Take your students on field trips so they can explore the experts on their topic or contact the expert via mail or Skype.

As your student engages in the research process you can encourage them to journal about their research using Google docs, or  Explora and the tool My Folder.  Encourage your student to identify three topics that interest them.  Help your student to identify with what interests them and how it can perhaps help others in their research.  Identify what they know and what they need to know more about. Then get your student to write down three questions they need to know more about.  Debate the titles and the keywords with a teacher librarian or teacher.  Discuss search engines and databases that could be useful.  Lastly, assess for content, validity of sources, and sense of accomplishment and interest.

The second method of Inquiry is called the Minimally Guided Theory or Maker Education as we call it in our learning commons.  Minimally guided means as the words imply that the student comes up with his or her own student-driven questions which provoke natural curiosity and drive learning.  Students learn concepts without being taught them per say.

An example might be asking a student to design a bridge or a boat which floats.  They would research the topic and present their own findings based on what they were trying to prove their essential question.  The teacher really takes a back seat in this learning, maybe just presenting one idea and then letting the student discover and research the rest.  It can be messy as students learn it’s okay to keep making mistakes.

How do we do this in a home education environment?

  1. Find out what things your student would like to make based on the big ideas in the curriculum.  Chat with your teacher to define that learning, and what it might look like?
  2. Check out the amazing resources we have on the core competencies within our commons to read and help your student find an essential question that pertains to making something or designing something.
  3. Read the book Invent to Learn which outlines the history of making and the pedagogy behind it. Or, read Project-Based Homeschooling in our learning commons.
  4. Borrow some of our MakerEd materials (Dash Robot, Knex) from the learning commons to get some ideas.
  5. Work with another family who has the same interests as your student to learn together.
  6. Tie into learning at a community connection center, learning camp, or virtual inquiry book club.

The third and last means of inquiry is called Discipline-based Inquiry. This approach takes into consideration that deeper learning can only happen when students are learning what they really can tie into topics that are meaningful to them.  Here teachers ask the guiding questions which will elicit responses from a statement or opinion or hook.  Many teachers might understand this as Socratic learning, where both teacher and student work together to push learning and dialogue towards meaningful thoughts.

“Key Renaissance figures such as Galileo Galilei and Leonardo da Vinci were emblematic of a quest for knowledge that spread to the rest of Europe in the late 16th century spurred on through the creation of new technologies, eg. microscope, telescope, printing press, etc. This spirit of inquiry and scientific discovery took hold on a wider scale during the European Enlightenment beginning in the 18th century.”  ¹

  • Key assumption: Ways inquiry is taken up should emerge from a particular discipline. Students needed learn best when they are brought into the structures and ways of thinking of a particular discipline. Teachers have a large repertoire of pedagogical approaches so that instruction conforms to what is to be learned and the learning needs and strengths of the student. Teachers use a balanced combination of student-centred and direct oriented approaches aligned with disciplinary, curricular and assessment practices. They use diagnostic tools and formative and summative assessments to monitor student’s progress and ensure students are acquiring deep understanding and knowledge. (Focus On Inquiry Galileo)

How do we help students learn more about discipline based inquiry?

  1. We learn to ask more open ended questions to get our students sharing.  We use questions such as How would you, what would result if you, how would you describe, compare with, what is the relationship between, how could you change, how would you improve, and how do you feel, what is your opinion, what would you do differently, what choice would you have taken. Questions should have deep meaning to the student. may not have one answer and will require research.
  2. Find issues which are pertinent to your community.
  3. Help your student tie into some real authentic learning relevant to their grade and interest, or gifting.
  4. Students are encouraged to spend more lab time, studio work, construction time or interviewing time to capture data.
  5. Encourage students to use technology to help them present and exhibit their work.
  6. Get your student connected with an expert in the field of his or her topic.
  7. Find ways to help your students communicate about their learning whether it be podcasting, or writing a blog post etc.

Why do students need to be good digital citizens?

Addressing the 21st-century skill of digital citizenship is important; to help students to learn, communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly. Being a best digital citizen in the community includes having email etiquette, reporting and preventing cyberbullying, learning how to protect private information.

HCOS Subscriptions That Help with Digital Citizenship

  • Check out the WorldBook Student page to find wonderful research lesson plans and resources.  This online database comes with our ERAC subscription and is to be accessed in Encom, the school computer system.  Go to the top of your parent homepage and log in using the credentials given in the username/password document received from your support teacher.
  • Explora has wonderful ideas for research including My Folder where you can store all your research, and add citations.
  • Everfi Subscription: Ignition – This is an engaging and interactive resource to teach your middle-grade students the nuts and bolts of how to use technology in a safe and responsible way
    • “Ignition Digital Literacy & Responsibility educates students on the nuts and bolts of how technology works while placing them in virtual environments to tackle issues surrounding digital citizenship. The course covers everything from internet safety and cyberbullying to how to evaluate online content and properly credit creators of online content.
    • The four-hour digital literacy curriculum, designed for students in grades 6 to 9, informs students about how technology works and provides an introduction to STEM careers. In addition to the modules, students apply their learning in virtual environments, demonstrating their mastery of issues such as privacy, security, cyberbullying, conducting online research, digital relationships, and the viral nature of the web.”
    • Each module has a pre and post assessment so you can see how your students are doing.
    • Contact Beth Johnson for more information regarding signing up for any of these subscriptions.

Digital Literacy is

“the interest, attitude, and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital technology and communication tools to access, manage, integrate, analyze and evaluate information, construct new knowledge, create and communicate with others in order to participate effectively in society”.

Grades 6–9 (Ages 11–15)

Watch this definition of digital literacy and then follow up with video tutorials to be found on this page from MediaSmarts.

The following experiences with technology and digital resources are examples of learning activities in which students might engage during Grades 6–9 (ages 11–15):

  1. Describe and illustrate a content-related concept or process using a model, simulation, or concept-mapping software.
  2. Create original animations or videos documenting school, community, or local events.
  3. Gather data, examine patterns, and apply information for decision making using digital tools and resources.
  4. Participate in a cooperative learning project in an online learning community.
  5. Evaluate digital resources to determine the credibility of the author and publisher and the timeliness and accuracy of the content.
  6. Employ data-collection technology such as probes, handheld devices, and geographic mapping systems to gather, view, analyze, and report results for content-related problems.
  7. Select and use the appropriate tools and digital resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and to solve problems.
  8. Use collaborative electronic authoring tools to explore common curriculum content from multicultural perspectives with other learners.
  9. Integrate a variety of file types to create and illustrate a document or presentation.
  10. Independently develop and apply strategies for identifying and solving routine hardware and software problems.

You can find creative ideas to meet the above in this document:

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 8.29.02 AM

Digital Literacy Skills Grades 6-9 (in Google Presentation format)

Digital Citizenship & Bullying Unit Study Kits

Digital Citizenship & Bullying Unit Study Kits

Students need to understand why media literacy is so important as they read online.  From news to social media students need to be able to judge what they are reading and ascertain validity, reliability and bias.

Under BrainPop find the following Media Literacy breakdown into:

  • activities,
  • understanding news media,
  • how to use primary sources,
  • reading a newspaper,
  • fact and opinion,
  • critical thinking,
  • and social media.

You will need to activate Flash Player to get the video clips working.

Researching in the middle grades requires active usage of our inquiry databases like Explora, WorldBook, and search engines like Advanced Google.

When using Google make sure you show your students how to use the Advanced Search option to refine their results.  Have your Google filter set as Strict in your settings.

Use search engines and databases that will help your student search safely.

Research Tools

Here is a template to help your students walk through the step by step process.  Below are some important tutorials to help your students understand the research process.

Here is a 9-step process for acquiring and organization information for your research assignment: Recipe for Research.

Middle grade students need to know how to research the Internet to find current, reliable, accurate, vetted resources.

But How Does the Internet Work?

To search on the Internet and find reliable sources students may do either of these options:

  • Search using Explora Primary if K-7 and Explora High School if gr 8-12.   OWorldBook (for more information check out our Subscriptions Portal)
  • Search using Advanced Google.  Do NOT use Google  (unless looking for a needle in haystack queries) as your results will be overpopulated.

The first option using Explora, or WorldBook allows students to find great resources without having to do as much evaluation of websites as all have been vetted by academics.  However, students will still need to identify relevant articles.

They can choose to search within the federated search option within our learning commons portal Insignia or they can choose to search within each database by clicking on the database URL.

  • Here is a simple tutorial for students using Explora.
  • If students decide to search the Internet via Advanced Google watch this tutorial which shares some simple steps.

Algorithms tell the search engine what to show you. They look at:

  • What they know about you. Search engines will personalize your results based on things like your location and your past search history.

  • The number of times search keywords and phrases appear on the page and their location on the page (e.g., is the search term in the headline?)

  • The number of times other websites link to the webpage

  • The authority or importance of those websites that link to that page (the website of a government agency gets more weight than a personal blog)

  • The number of links, shares, and social media mentions that the webpage has

  • The amount of time the webpage has been up

Searching Using Social Media

Many of us get our news from social media and your social media will shape the information you see in your feeds.

Some of the main factors that social media algorithms look at include:

  • Relevance: Does it match the type of content you typically click on?

  • Engagement: How many likes, clicks, comments, and shares has the post received? How often has it been hidden? How much time do people spend looking at the post?

  • Who Shared It: Is it a close friend or family member, or a company? Do you look at the sharer’s profile or engage with their posts more often than others in your feed?

Effective Search
  • Use good keywords and quotation marks to refine your questions.
  • Be aware of adverts on the website page as this might indicate a paid site.
  • Check the source URL for relevancy (gov. etc)
  • Do you select sources that challenge or confirm your existing perspective?

Evaluating Sources Online!

Rules to follow when identifying credible sources:

  • Does this writing seem too good to be true?  You may wonder at its validity. or truth  Ask these questions:  Does this article seem unbelievable?  Does it conflict with something you already know to be true?  Is it greatly exaggerated?
  • Who wrote this information?  Identifying the author can help you determine the credibility and truth of your source.  Determine the author’s education, training, or experience/knowledge on the topic?  Does she or she have a professional title, belong to an established and respected organization, and can you take extra steps to find out more about the author ie an about me page.  Who owns the website?  Sometimes the owner and author may be different.  To find the owner search the URL on
  • What type of website is this?  A political organization?  A non-profit.  A social media celebrity?  Check the URL.  Read the About section or profile bio.  Do another search for more information about the source.
  • Who else links to the site and why?  What is their reputation?  Do they stand to gain anything by attacking or supporting a point? Type the website link into your search engine with quotation marks and see what reviews show up.
  • When was this article written?  How old is the information on the website?  This will determine its reliability and accuracy.  There should be a date when the information was written and links included on the site should be updated and be working.  Check on the bottom of the website to see the last update.
  • Can the information be verified?  To check the accuracy of an article or website we might want to look at the sources used in the article, whether they are listed in the article, and is there a good bibliography or other links to provide additional sources of information.  Can you find other sources which share identical information?
  • How does the tone of the writing reflect credibility?  The way an article is written will reveal clues about the credibility.  Check for good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style of language.  Is the language demanding, critical, or over emotional?  Is the writing too informal and more colloquial?  Does it only share one point of view?  If you can notice a bias what facts does it use to back it up?  Does it appear to make people angry or try and manipulate people?
  • Why does the author write this information?  Every author comes from a particular worldview or perspective.  Some people will write articles to contribute to unreliability, bias and untruth.  That does not discount argumentative essays or passion/opinion pieces.  However use your judgement and the clues as shared above about credibility before using this as a reliable source.

Lesson plans!

Website Evaluation and Lesson Plans

Teach your students the following lessons shared here:

GCSC Library tutorial from Youtube.

Digital Literacy and Tech Tools

There are so many tech tools out there that sometimes it can get pretty overwhelming to decide which ones to leverage into our learning experiences.  Which ones are user-friendly?  Which ones are really cutting-edge? Which ones will engage my learner?

We have curated some of the best digital literacy and tech tools out there, here on this list for you.  We hope you explore these tools, and discover how they can help your students access, manage, integrate, analyze, and evaluation information; construct new knowledge; and create/communicate with others more effectively!

Collaboration and Engagement Tools

Creation and Editing Tools

Games and Quizzing

Global Engagement Tools

Presentation Creation and Engagement Tools

Showcasing and Networking Tools

STEM Resources

Video, 360° and VR/AR Creation and Editing Tools

Plagiarism should be avoided at all times!

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to “plagiarize” means:

  • to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
  • to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward. ”

To learn about how to avoid plagiarism, see

Plagiarism Tools


Middle-grade students need to understand how to compile a bibliography regardless of whether they are presenting a book report, research report, a Powerpoint, video or artwork.  There are different formats for bibliography, and they are covered in this template.

Should your student desire to use an online tool instead EasyBib or BibMe both work well.  Please follow the MLA format.

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