Konnie Lee and Joy Thomas used WebQuests with their first and third grade students and were not only amazed at the results, but also pleasantly surprised by the cooperation among students and their retention and application of information.
I created a Planet WebQuest for my first graders to go with my Space unit. It took a lot of time to create my own WebQuest, but it was worth it! As students worked through each step of the WebQuest, they were actively engaged and collaborated with their partners. I was pleasantly surprised at the cooperative efforts between students during the WebQuest, and at the retention and application of information when the WebQuest was completed.
The week before my students actually did the WebQuest, I modeled how it would work. On several occasions, I walked them through the actual WebQuest in small groups.
When it came time to do the WebQuest, this is how it worked: Students were arranged in pairs, and each pair chose a planet in the solar system. Their task was to create a poster that would help future visitors to the planet. Students began their computer research one afternoon during small group time. Each pair had a data sheet to complete with the information they gleaned from the linked Web sites. A second computer session the next morning allowed students to finish their research. A few students also used trade books from the classroom to complete their research. Then, each pair of students used their data to draw a planet poster. At the end of the week, they shared their posters with the class and made recommendations regarding needs of future missions to their planet.
The process didnt always go smoothly. The first day, I had a few tense students due to what they perceived as lack of structure, even though I was walking back and forth right behind them. They were uncomfortable because I was not doing it for them. Two students panicked over trying to look at the linked Web sites. Two others had trouble assimilating what they were reading on the screen. I could tell they were really being stretched. I kept telling them that I knew it was a little hard and to hang in there. At that point, I really wondered if I might have over-estimated my students. It was an uncomfortable afternoon. I should mention, however, that we did the WebQuest in March. By that time, I knew my students and they knew me, and I had told them about hard" things before.
The next day went much more smoothly. Students got right to work with just a little hesitation and completed the first part of their task. And as the week progressed, I began to see the positives of the project.
My students were engaged; they collaborated well; they learned and achieved more mastery than if I had taught the information in the traditional way. My special needs student was able to be a part of the activity from start to finish and she felt good about her contribution. I was able to scaffold learners as much as I thought they needed, and yet I let the project provide a challenge to them. They assimilated and synthesized the data that was available to them. Every student acquired new literacy skills related to the computer, and they all said they enjoyed the activity and would like to do another WebQuest. What more can a teacher ask for?
But, there was more! The next week, students wrote a Planet facts book while in the writing center. They could choose any planet and then write facts about that planet. To my pleasant surprise, most students chose to write about the planet they had studied in their WebQuest. You might say, well of course!" But for first graders to make that connection was huge! I realized that my students had learned more than I expected and that they could apply that information in a different context.
Next week, read about Konnie Lees Simple Machine WebQuest.for third graders.
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