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Winning Lesson Plan

Use Boolean Search Terms to Shorten Web Searches

Subject: Algebra,Language Arts
Grade: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, Advanced

Brief Description

Students use games, manipulatives, and computers to learn the advantages of using Boolean terms when searching the Web.



  • learn the common Boolean search terms: AND, NOT, OR
  • learn that there are differences and similarities between major search tools on the Web
  • learn the difference between search engines and directories
  • use higher-level thinking skills in participating in a classroom activity
  • apply those skills when giving directions to classmates and writing searches.



Boolean terms, search engines

Materials Needed


Lesson Plan

  • Begin by asking whether anyone has ever conducted a Web search and received too many hits. Discuss the frustration of not knowing which articles are best and how to conduct a meaningful search.
  • Organize students in a circle. Ask them to stand if they can answer "yes" to questions such as the following:
    Are you wearing jeans?
    jeans and a T-shirt?
    jeans that are not blue jeans?
    sneakers that are not mostly white or sandals?
    earrings or hair ornaments?
  • Continue for a few minutes with this activity before asking students to tell which words clued them to stand or sit. (AND, NOT, OR)
  • Tell students that these are Boolean terms, named for a British mathematician, George Boole. Because the Internet is a huge computer database, people must search its contents according to the rules of computer database searching. Much database searching is based on the logical relationship among search terms, referred to as the "principles of Boolean logic."
  • Send students to the computer(s) to visit t of Ask Scott and read the  Proposal for Categorization and Nomenclature for Web Search Tools to learn the difference between search engines and directories. Discuss the advantages of each after about ten minutes.
  • Let students review basic Boolean search terms on their own, using Boolean Search Tips 
  • Use a large set of logic blocks or teacher-made construction-paper shapes to demonstrate the following game for everyone. Invite three students to take part at first. Give the following directions:
    Listen carefully so you can choose a block that matches the description given because I will not repeat it.
    Find a block that is red.
    Find a block that is red and round.
    Find a block that is red and round but not thick.
    Find a block that is large and thick but not a circle.
    Find a block that is red or thin but not a triangle.
  • Review the Boolean operators: AND, NOT, OR
  • Organize students into groups of three or four, and provide each group with a set of logic blocks. Appoint one student to be the leader and begin giving directions. Caution students to begin with simple blocks before moving to more-complex blocks. They should also be sure they know the correct responses so they can judge teammates' responses. Allow students to work for ten to 15 minutes so everyone has a turn leading.
  • Direct students to collect the blocks and return them to a designated place.
  • Give each student an index card and tell him or her to write the name of a creature they would like to search for, such as a cat or a freshwater fish. What would students like to learn about the creatures?
  • Remind everyone to use Boolean terms to narrow or widen search categories.
  • Send students to a search engine to test the results of their search terms. Allow them to refine their searches.
  • Discuss the results.



Observe student participation in the search games and discussions. Use the search terms on index cards to judge understanding, but allow students to find out for themselves whether they used the terms well. Assess students' search refinements while they work online.

Lesson Plan Source


Submitted By

VaReane Heese, Springfield Elementary School, Springfield, Nebraska

The submitter of our highlighted lesson received a $50 honorarium. See our guidelines to submit your lesson plan!



Links last updated 02/20/2006


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