Today, I did the first explore with my 7th graders. The first activity was having the students pull up the website allaboutexplorers.com. If you aren't familiar with the site, it is a website with fake information about explorers. The site looks very credible and the information is almost believable enough to make you wonder about its accuracy. I had them choose any of the explorers and give a quick read of the information. Three of four minutes of silent reading passed. Some students looked a bit perplexed but kept reading. Suddenly a student says out loud, "Wait a minute....it says here he was killed with an AK-47?" I played dumb and said, "Really? You don't believe that?" Then another student said, "Mine says he thought he discovered America but then realized he was already there?" Then the flood came: "Mine says he was born in America but he was a Spanish explorer" "Mine said he traveled from 1690 to 1657." This led into a quick discussion about trusting what you read on the internet.
The next activity in the explore phase was having the students look up a Wikipedia page of something they know a lot about. We had 6 or 7, One Direction searches, a Kate Middleton search (did you know today is her birthday?), a Notre Dame football search (was a good example of how current Wikipedia can be with information), and a variety of other searches. I asked students to give a quick read through the page they selected.
The next activity was a free write on 4 questions:
- Is this information accurate?
- How do you know or why do you believe that?
- Is the site well written?
- Why or why not?
The next steps depending on how the discussion goes tomorrow:
- More exploration of evaluating sources will probably be needed later in the unit.
- A discussion or free write on how the writing on Wikipedia is different from other writing.
- A exploration/discussion of writing without bias using the same Wikipedia site.
- An extension activity of revising and editing an actual Wikipedia page for some writing and accuracy practice before starting the research paper.
- All this will lead into an exploration activity of choosing a topic and that is when the actually research paper "begins".