Prospecting For Treasure

Always prospecting for the next treasure of an idea.

Using a WebQuest

These students are learning about the American Revolution.

I have always done research projects with my fourth graders, so when I learned about webquests, it seemed like a very good fit.  Our school is a Core Knowledge school, and my  4th graders learn about world geography, the American Revolution, and the middle ages, along with our regular school district curriculum.   Webquests are another one of those things I learned about in the technology class that I took last summer.  One of our assignments was to create a webquest. 

A webquest is an inquiry based lesson plan that teaches students through use of the internet.  It was developed by Bernie Dodge at San  Diego State University.  A webquest has sequential steps that guide the student through the lesson, with a required outcome at the end.  I like the fact that it introduces children to using the internet to find information, but it controls where they  go.  It minimizes the possibility of finding inappropriate websites, but it does not eliminate it, so students still need to be supervised closely.  You can learn more about webquests at WebQuest.Org.

My first webquest was about mountains.  I used Quest Garden, which takes you step by step through the development of your webquest, even coaching you as you go along.  Quest Garden has a 30 day free trial, and after that, costs only $20 for two years.  The advantage of Quest Garden is that you can use webquests created by other people, and even adapt them to the needs of your own students. Quest Garden has thousands of webquests on file, so it’s a great way to learn about the possibilities.  Check it out at   Another source for webquests is the University of Richmond.  You can check those out at   You  can also create a webquest using a wiki or website.  There are many options.

Our school does not have a computer lab, but I have been able to patchwork a classroom lab with 3 older Dell desktops, an old Dell laptop, and 5 new HP Laptops, that are shared, but live in my room most of the time.  We had a new wireless internet installed last summer, which is what makes this possible.

The first time our class did a webquest, we all worked on it at the same time, and we worked in teams.    They worked as a team to do the research, but had to create their own Mountain Field Guide.  I found it challenging to find websites that were at my students reading levels, and that provided them with all the information they needed, so I also brought in library books, and they were required to use at least one book as an additional source.  I want them to learn to use multiple sources.

The kids were so excited!  This was the first time that several of my kids had ever used the internet.  In fact, some of our families do not have computers in their homes.  They loved clicking on the links to open up a new website, and I had some problems moving them on from exploration to actually using and thinking about the information.  I created a document to use to gather their information.  My kids need this additional structure. We also had some days when we put the computers away and took time to process our information, and utilize the books in the room,  In the end, I was pleased with the Mountain Field Guides created by the class.  Here is my first webquest, Mountain Trek.   

Since that time, members of my class have done two other webquests.  I have a group of advanced readers, who read the book The Sign of the Beaver.  This is one of my all time favorite books.  For this  webquest, I used one that was already created by Emily Fraser at the University of Portland.  She did all of the hard work, and I just modified it.    This group of students was able to work much more independently. But again, I had some problems transitioning them from research to completing the tasks.  Check out The Sign of The Beaver WebQuest.

Our webquest notebooks are 3 prong pocket folders with notebook paper and a graphic organizer.

Right now we are doing a webquest about the American Revolution.  Students are working on it, a few at a time,  when they are at the computer center (which consists of the old Dells).  This is usually during our small group reading time.  This one was created by by Carole Birdsong, at Asbury Elementary School, and modified by me.  So far things are going well.  Again, I created a form for them to take notes, to help them gather the information in one place. It does seem that no matter how academic my intentions are, my clever students always find the links to games and activities that are less academic in nature.  This one is called “A Revolution is Coming.  Which side will you be on?” 

Are you using webquests?  What has worked best for you?  Please share your ideas in the comments below.  I am always looking for ways to keep our time more focused and productive.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment