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The Skill of Search and Understanding Search Results

One of the most important skills for students to learn is how to effectively search for information. When I was teaching, before transitioning to consulting, I would take the first week of school to try to build some skills and expectations that would be used all year long. I believe one of the most valuable skills you can teach your students is the skill of search.

It doesn’t matter what the content is, what unit you’re in, or standards that you need to meet before the year’s end; what matters most is a foundation in search. I would teach search skills the first week and then build upon them week after week. This, I feel, would put my students in a place that not only would they be able to start learning for themselves, but they would be building a life skill that is critical from now until we get chips planted in our brains that can read our thoughts and search for us (which I think would be really cool).

Even though we’re nearing the end of the school year, it’s not too late to begin teaching strategies that will help your students get the most out of their information searches. Just as we teach students to look at and understand the index of a book, we should teach students to know the parts a search page.

Take the time to introduce the basic search page. There are different parts to the search results and they each tell you something different.

Features of the index search result page:
Important note: Google is constantly changing the way that results are returned. Your results may differ from someone else’s.

  • Quick Overview at the top: definition of the search term
  • Top Stories: relevant, up-to-date stories about your search term
  • Search Index: web page results
  • Advertising/Ads at the top or on the right side: Google’s explanation for the appearance of ads is, “if we think an ad will help you find what you’re looking for, we might show ads on the top of the search page or on the right side. You’ll know if it’s ad and not a search result because of the yellow Ad or Ads icon next to the URL.”

In each search result, you’ll find the following parts:

Title: This is the title of the page and a clue of what we’ll find on the web page.

URL: Just like your house has a specific address in the world, so does everything on the internet. This web address is where the information you’ve searched for is located.

Snippet: We rely on the snippet a lot to tell us what content we’re going to find on the web page. The snippet will have the search term that you’ve used in bold and is roughly 25 words of what’s on that web page that matches your search term.

Once your students know the basics of what is contained in a search result, they will be able to evaluate which search result has what they are looking for before they click to visit that website.

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