Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Start Your Engines: An Internet Research Lesson

Kristy Rousseau
Bay District Schools


This lesson offers informational how-tos for conducting research on the Internet. Three search engines are introduced and used to gather information to solve a specific problem. This lesson is to be used in a series of lessons on geometry.


The student extends previously learned knowledge and skills of the fourth grade with increasingly complex texts and assignments and tasks (for example, using reference materials and processes).


-Internet-accessible computers
-Display method (white board, chalk board, overhead, etc.)
-Chart of -Problem-Solving Steps- (see Associated File)
--Background Information on the Internet and Search Engines- (see Associated File)
-One copy of -An Internet Research Guide- per student (see Associated File)
-Paper and pencil
-Index or note cards for recording research
-One copy of the bibliographic reference guide per student (see Associated File)
-Printers (optional)
-Hard copies of frequently-visited Internet sites (optional)


1. Schedule library or computer lab for research day(s) and time(s).
2. If traveling to a public library or district computer lab, secure necessary permission slips, bus, and chaperones.
3. Secure parental permission for students to access the Internet (refer to school or district policy).
4. Review the -Background Information on the Internet and Search Engines- and the -Glossary- of terms provided in the Associated File. (Although the -Background Information- could be provided to the students, it is intended to build a teacher's background about the Internet and some available search engines.)
5. Gather and copy listed materials as needed. For easier management, include the bibliographic reference guide and the glossary as part of -Internet Research Guide.-
6. Post the chart of -Problem-Solving Steps- for easy reference
7. Post the schedule (activities and time allotments) for the Internet research lesson.
8. Turn all computers on prior to the students' arrival and maneuver through any log-in and password procedures so students have to focus only on finding and opening the browser from the desktop.


Background: This lesson is a supplement to be used after the five lessons in the series on geometry. (See Weblinks for all five lessons.)During this lesson students use problem-solving and research processes to answer the questions they have about tessellations. Although the focus of the students' Internet research is on tessellations, the lesson can be adapted to reflect other research topics. The ultimate goal is for students to practice and strengthen their problem-solving and research processes.

Note: The following instruction occurs while students are at the computers. Review the posted schedule (activities and time allotments) for the lesson so students know what to expect. (For example, let them know that the first few minutes of the overview is a -hands-off- time.)

1. Review the problem-solving steps that students have used to answer various mathematical problems (see Associated File). Clarify each step and ask the students to identify where they are in the problem-solving process with their research problem. For example, in the series of five lessons, students spend two weeks researching information in order to solve the Circle Cinema problem. This problem comes in the form of an architectural contract. The class has been hired by The Circle Cinema to redesign the floor and ceiling tiles of its 12-screen theater. The students work in design teams to gather and test ideas. After a time of research and development, each student proposes a tessellation design. Final contracts are awarded to the students who address and meet the following criteria: a) design patterns are modeled after the architectural artwork of the Alhambra, b) design patterns meet the criteria of the tessellation rubric, and c) a written explanation details how the design pattern is based on the circle. (See Weblinks for lessons.)

2. Follow step 1 in the problem-solving process---Understand the Problem--- and have students identify questions that need to be researched before they can solve their problem. For example, with the Circle Cinema problem, students had raised the following questions: What is the Alhambra? What does a tessellation look like? How does a tessellation relate to a circle? These questions helped to narrow down the topic of tessellations and provided the students with a starting place for research.

3. If students have not narrowed their research topics, help them do so at this time. Explain that before they can gather information from various research materials they must first go through a systematic research process that involves a) selecting a topic, b) formulating questions, c) narrowing the focus, and d) developing a plan for gathering information. Use the following questions to guide students through this process: What do you know? What do you need to know? What do you need to know first?

4. Explain that today's session will help them complete step 2---Develop a Plan--- and begin step 3---Carry out the Plan---of the problem-solving process. The session will introduce three search engines and explain how they can be used to gather research information from the Internet.

5. To solicit students' prior knowledge and to help gauge how much -background- must be provided during this initial stage of the lesson ask, -How many have Internet access at home?- and -What do you know about the Internet?-

6. Ask, -What do you need to know about the Internet?- Record students' questions and refer to them during the modeling and practice sessions. Try to answer as many of the questions as possible within the context of the lesson.

7. Tell the students that once they have developed a plan for gathering information (step 2) their next step is to -Carry Out the Plan.- Pass out the research packets, -An Internet Research Guide- and have students turn to page 1. Review the information provided about browsers and have students double-click on the browser icon from their desktop. As necessary, review with students the various toolbars and menus that appear on the computer screen--button toolbar, pop-down menu, URL location field, browser icon, scroll bar, status message box, and status progress bar. (See the -Background Information on the Internet and Search Engines- provided in the Associated File.)

8. Allow students to move their mouse over various sections of the homepage. Have them stop when their cursor appears as a hand. Explain the presence of -hyperlinks- on the Internet page and their ability to link the viewer to additional pages. (Buttons, text, or icons may be hyperlinked. If possible, identify an example of each.)

9. Tell the students that three -search engines- will be introduced and used today during their research: Ask Jeeves, Yahoo! and Alta Vista. Explain that a -search engine- is a Web site that employs bots to search the Web. These engines take the information gathered by its bots and use it to create a searchable index of the Net. The -search- in search engine refers to the searching the bots do, not the searching the students do to find things on the Net.

10. As you begin the modeling section of this lesson, Bay County, Florida, teachers may use the district homepage to access the Internet search engines. (See page 2 of the research packet.) Other teachers may begin with page 3.

11. In the URL Location field, direct students to type in the following address to start their first search engine . Once the address has been typed students should press -enter.-

12. Introduce -Jeeves,- the Internet butler who is ready to answer the questions you ask. Orient students to the various fields on the page and then have students type in their questions. (Those students searching for information on tessellations can use the question provided on the bottom of page 2.) When students have finished typing their questions, instruct them to click the -Ask!- button.

13. Direct students' attention to page 4 of the research guide and explain that Ask Jeeves searches other engines for information and then produces a list of web sites that relate to their question.

14. Direct students to click on the down arrows found in each field to see additional links. Explain that any of these links can be followed to gather information. Encourage students to read through the various links and decide which ones should be followed based on the information they want to gather.

15. Allow students time to browse through the links presented by Jeeves. Notecards can be used to collect information during this time; however, remind the students to keep accurate addresses for the Web sites they visit in order to correctly document their sources.

16. Gather students back together and review the following buttons and tools: 1) The -back- button presented on the top of each page can be used to move through the Internet sites that have been visited. At times students may get -bogged- down in the information and this button provides them a way out. 2) The -home- button can also be used when students find themselves -lost- in all the information. Although they will have to start their search over, at least they will know where they are. 3) Discuss the -print- options available and set the guidelines for printing based on the class' needs and the availability of printers, paper, etc.

17. At this time, two options are available in the instruction. Teachers may continue with the Internet Research Guide and model how to use Yahoo! and Alta Vista to gather information--OR--teachers may use the students' own questions to guide their overview of Yahoo! and Alta Vista. For example, I had initially planned to show the students how one question/keyword (tessellations) could be used to search for information at each site. However, as the students searched, new questions arose: -How does the Alhambra fit in with the tessellation?- and -What does M.C. Escher have to do with tessellations?- As each question was raised, I used it as an opportunity to introduce the next search engine. The information and hints provided in the reseach guide were covered but not necessarily in the order originally presented.) Note: The research guide was developed as a tool to use during instruction; it was not designed for students to work through independently.)

18. After introducing the search engines and providing time for the students to browse the various sites, have students turn to the last page in the research packet. Review the search engines available and their URL addresses. Direct students to complete the first two lines in the -My Plan for Research- section.

19. Review the format and procedures for collecting notes and recording bibliographic references that have been established for the research project. (The -Bibliographies- handout in the Associated File includes a model of how to cite Internet resources. Provide individual copies of this reference guide for students to refer to as needed.)

20. As students begin their own research, monitor their research attempts and continue to provide the hints and guidance needed. If the majority of students are researching the same topic, encourage them to print a variety of information and not several copies of the same site. Also let them know that the servers may take longer to retrieve the information if several students are trying to access the same site at the same time.

WRAP-UP AND REVIEW (10 minutes)
21. Reconvene as a whole class to guide students through step 4 of the problem-solving process, -Look Back and Review.- Ask, -What did you find that is important for us to know?- Allow students to share and/or describe the web sites that they found exceptionally helpful.

22. Ask, -What do you still need to know?- Have students write a question they still need to answer on the top of a clean sheet of paper. Under the question, instruct them to list the keywords, questions, and search engine(s) they would use to gather information on the Internet. Collect their papers and use the criteria presented in the assessment section to check their plans.

23. As a final review, explain how the problem-solving steps can be repeated to address these new questions. As part of step 2, -Develop a Plan,- help the students brainstorm available Internet resources that can be accessed at school, home, or public libraries to help them gather the needed information. Review the due date for the research project and help students prioritize their activities.

24. Note: If this lesson is being used in conjunction with the series of lessons on geometry refer to that lesson plan for the next sequence of activities.


Use the criteria presented below to formatively assess the students' plans for the following research processes:
1. Formulates questions.
2. Narrows the focus.
3. Develops a plan for gathering information.

Criteria for students' papers (or note cards):
1. Students generate a question that they need to answer in order to complete the project.
2. Students list the question(s) or keywords that they will use to find their information.
3. Students identify the search engine(s) they will use in order to find their information. For example,, Yahoo! or Alta Vista.

Note: Circulate and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide assistance for students who are experiencing difficulty and monitor accordingly.


1. Provide an opportunity during the next few days for students to -Carry Out the Plan- they developed during lesson procedure #22.

2. Once the research for this particular question has been completed, ask the students to -Look Back and Review- what they have learned and the steps they took to gather the information. Ask, -What new questions have been raised by the research?- and -What do you still need to know in order to solve the problem?- As students continue the research process, provide the modeling and scaffolding needed to help them become researchers and problem-solvers.

3. For additional Teacher Preparation, visit the -Educators- section of the Beacon Learning Center.

Click on -Educators,- then find the section titled, -Software Training Manuals- and click on -General Computer Literacy.- Finally, choose -Internet Training- to download information on surfing the web, creating and publishing web pages, and Internet lesson plans.

Web Links

Web supplement for Start Your Engines: An Internet Research Lesson

Web supplement for Start Your Engines: An Internet Research Lesson

Web supplement for Start Your Engines: An Internet Research Lesson

Web supplement for Start Your Engines: An Internet Research Lesson
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