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The 5Ws of Information Inquiry

Let's explore Lamb's New 5Ws.


Watching asks students to explore and become observers of their environment. According to Webster's dictionary, watching is a state of alert and continuous attention, close observation. A person who is watching is looking for action and change.

The watching phase of information exploration asks students to become more in tune to the world around them from family needs to global concerns.


The world is a fascinating place. However we often get so caught up in our daily routine that we don't look outside and explore the rest of the world. Enjoy viewing, listening, and reading about what's happening in the world around you. Take time to appreciate the information around you. Stop and smell the flowers!

Spend time with nature. Visit a museum. Browse a book or video store. Be sure to listen, read, view, and enjoy.


Begin with observation. Take a couple days to really explore the world around you. Keep a journal of what you see, hear, say, touch, and taste. Describe how you feel physically and emotionally. Consider keeping an electronic journal or using Inspiration to diagram your ideas.

Explore each aspect of your life including your family, community, work, play, and school. Watch the interaction among family members. Observe your friends and their actions. Explore the environment where you live. If aliens were examining you and your community, what would they think?

Reading and Viewing

Increase the time you spend reading for enjoyment. Explore different genres of literature, a new author, or different format. Try an ebook! Go to Literature Ladders for ideas.

Explore sounds and videos. Listen to streaming radio or telvision. Go to Multimedia Seeds for ideas.

Reach out to the world through the newspaper, radio, television, and Internet. Go to News from Teacher Tap for ideas.

What do you see and hear? What are the current issues of interest and concern? What problems need solutions? Which of these issues impact your life directly or indirectly? Consider the future. How will the world around you change over time? How will you change? What will you be doing in 10, 25, 50, or 75 years?


Explore the journal writing pages below. Incorporate some ideas from the journal writing pages in your own writing. Go to 42eXplore: Journaling or Journaling (Metacognitive Journal, Double Entry Journal, Reflective Journal, Dialectical Journal, Journal Activities, Response Journal, Learning Log, Synthesis Journal, Speculation About Effects Journal) for ideas.

If you have Alphasmarts (electronic keyboards) or computers in your library or classroom, consider creating electronic journals. Many people enjoy creating web logs called Blogs for recording their ideas and insight. Go to Blogging from Escrapbooking for ideas.


Share your thoughts with a friend. Ask their ideas and opinions. Make a list of topics of greatest concern. Consider an email or chat project to connect with students in other locations. Go to Collaboration from Teacher Tap for ideas.


Start with a few simple questions. Ask yourself:

Spend some time exploring possibilities. Ask yourself:

As you explore the possibilities, you're likely to experience many emotions. You may wish your instructor would simply tell you what to do. You may be apprehensive of the work to come and uncertain of whether you're making the right choices. Reflect on these feelings and keep them in mind as you assist others in the inquiry process.

Carol Kuhlthau (1994) has found that these kinds of feelings are normal. She notes that it's important that teachers and media specialists acknowledge these frustrations, feelings, and experiences as a normal part of the inquiry process.

try itWatching Checklist
Develop an activity that you can do in your classroom to help students become more "in tune" with the world.
Exploring - stop and enjoy
Observing - watch the world
Reading and Viewing - examine the news
Writing - try some journaling
Discussing - collaborate with others
Contemplating - reflect on your feelings

video clipView Topic Selection (1:16).

In this video, a student selects a topic for an art fair project. Watch the video carefully. In the end, the student feels “stuck” with the topic. How could the teacher have used questioning to make the student more enthusiastic about the project? - Excerpt from “Asking the Right Question”, Pt. 1 of Know It All Series by GPN / Univ. of NB

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.



Wondering focuses on brainstorming options, discussing ideas, identifying problems, and developing questions. According to Webster's dictionary wondering includes many different emotions including surprise, curiosity, and doubt. Brainstorming, discussing, and reflecting on questions, concerns, and ideas are all part of the wondering phase.

The challenge of the wondering phase is keeping an open mind. Students need to explore all the possibilities before focusing on a specific topic or issue. As students narrow their topic, help them focus on particular issues, concerns, problems, or questions related to the topic. Don't let them get bogged down with "the topic." Instead, help them focus on ideas and perspectives they'd like to explore.

Finding Purpose

Start with your purpose. Why are you working on this project? Is it for pleasure? Do you have a particular problem to solve or question to answer? Your project may begin with simply wondering about a topic.

Next, start listing questions you have about that topic. You might record your basic ideas in a journal responding to the following prompts: I wonder ..., I like ..., I dislike ..., I am in favor of ..., I am opposed to ..., I wish I could convince people that ... Examine your responses.

Create a list of topics. Brainstorm a list of words or ideas associated with each of the topics.

You'll probably start with a problem or question that you choose or one that has been assigned. Ask yourself: What is the problem I need to solve? Or, what is the question I want to ask?

try itTry Wonderopolis.

try itTry ThinkTank from 4teachers.

try itTry Wonderville. There are many websites that help students explore their world. Look for interactive websites that provide exploration experiences.


There are many types of questions or problems to solve. Jamie McKenzie has identified and created many helpful resources for stimulating student thinking and questioning. Explore the following sites for ideas on incorporating questioning into your projects.

try itTry Explore strategies for questions and questioning. Try the module maker for creating projects.

Connecting to Prior Knowledge

The next step is to connect these ideas to prior knowledge including attitudes, experience, and knowledge. Consider building a KWL chart of What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I Learned. Keep a Wondering Chart (PDF) file.

Before searching for answers or possible solutions, it's a good idea to get a handle on what you already know and what information you need. This will save you lots of time when seeking information. People have different ways for thinking about what they know. Some people like to brainstorm a list of ideas, while others would rather draw a picture or create a table. The key is to get down and organize everything that you know about your topic. Some people like to use the 5Ws: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Try the 5Ws and H Chart PDF file.

try itTry Mind Tools: Brainstorming for more ideas on this technique. Try other ideas at MindTools.

Finding Your Focus

A graphic organizer is a great way to organize your ideas about your topic or problem. There are many technology tools you can use for idea organization. Use a visual thinking tool to get started with your project or you can follow it through the entire project process. Go to Graphical Organizers from Teacher Tap for ideas.

Do a quick survey of materials in the library and online. Are there books, magazine articles, and websites available on your topic? Do you think you'll be able to handle these resources or will you experience information overload? Does your topic need to be more broad or more narrow? Look at the topics that are related to your topic. Consider the headings and subheadings in articles, online catalogs, and in search engines associated with your topic.

Narrowing Your Topic

Once you've got a question or problem, identified everything you already know about the topic, and organized these ideas in a visual way, you're ready to narrow your topic to make it more manageable. It might be helpful to view a large project in smaller chunks or assign roles in a small group to get more done in a short time. Go to Narrowing Your Topic for ideas. Try the Topicing Chart PDF file.

If you're in charge of designing a research question, use words like what if, formulate, predict, invent, or imagine to get you started thinking about meaningful questions. Go to Critical Thinking from Teacher Tap for more ideas.


Select a topic. Ask yourself:

Are you concerned that you might think about the wrong things and choose the incorrect topic? Fear not! There isn't a perfect topic or best way to wonder about the world. It's your project. Pick what you think is most interesting or important. Narrow your topic in a way that fits with your personal and professional needs.

According to Carol Kuhlthau, students often make their decisions based on their predictions of the difficulty of the topic and likely success. However keep in mind that the inquiry process is flexible, so you can always revise your questions or adapt your project as you go. Rather than choosing one topic over another, it's probably most important that you select an area that you're enthusiastic about exploring. It should also be something that can be clearly defined and extended as the need as you proceed.

In a classroom setting, this is a good time for a teacher-student conference to discuss progress. Or, in a distance learning situation you may review and comment on students blog entries. This is helpful to be sure that the student is on track. It's also a good time to ensure that students feel confident about their progress and have identified a workable topic.

try itWondering Checklist
Develop an activity that you can do in your classroom to help students wonder about and focus on a topic, issue, or problem.
Finding Purpose - wonder about the world
Questioning - use for ideas
Connecting Prior Knowledge - brainstorm what you already know
Finding Focus - use graphic organizers for thinking about your topic
Narrowing - select a managable "chunk"
Contemplating - reflect on your topic

video clipView Student Frustrations (1:44).

Carol Kuhlthau discusses the frustrations of students as they move from topic selection to focused project development. She highlights concerns that students encounter such as loss of confidence and indecision. She focuses on the importance of time for construction and discussion. – Excerpt from interview with Daniel Callison.

video clipView Topic Exploration (1:20).

In this video, a student explores possibilities related to her art topic. She asks the question: what is art? - Excerpt from “Asking the Right Question”, Pt. 1 of Know It All Series by GPN / Univ. of NB

video clipView Narrowing a Topic (2:33).

In this video, a student narrows her art topic. - Excerpt from “Asking the Right Question”, Pt. 1 of Know It All Series by GPN / Univ. of NB

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.


Webbing directs students to locate, search for, and connect ideas and information. According to Webster's dictionary, a web is a woven network. For example, one piece of information may lead to new questions and areas of interest.

Students select those resources that are relevant and organize them into meaningful clusters.

Planning a Search Strategy

Once you have an understanding of your problem or question, you're ready to begin seeking answers. You need to start with a search strategy. Like a spider, you need to create a web of information related to your question. A web is constructed from many directions at once and becomes a woven network of ideas.

Analyze your questions to determine the best approach to information webbing. Ask yourself:

Identifying Key Ideas

Before you begin to search for information, it's helpful to think about the descriptors associated with your topic or questions. You'll need subject headings and key words to use in your search. As you review your notes and examine your brainstorms, think about the who, what, when, where, why, and how's assoicated with your topic. Consider the following areas:

Addressing Individual Differences

Locating and dealing with information can be overwhelming for some students. In some cases, students want to do little work and are happy to copy out of the encyclopedia. Others become overwhelmed when they discover the many books, videos, articles, and websites on their topic. It's essential to consider the individual differences of your students.

There are many ways for students to approach their topic, problem, or question. Design the information and technology environment to address the specific needs of students in the linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal areas. By focusing on specific attributes of technology such as text, sound, still images, and motion images we can assist students in selecting channels of communication that are most effective for accessing resources, synthesizing information, and communicating ideas. For example, the interactivity and immediacy of Internet technologies are useful for particular types of learners and their projects. As we explore the possibilities for technology it's important to examine all the possibilities from traditional resources (i.e., print, projected, display) to CD-ROM materials, multimedia tools, and Internet resources.

Identifying Types of Information

There are many different kinds of information. Resist the urge to go right to the Internet. Sometimes the best source is a dictionary or encyclopedia. Ask youself. Are you looking for fact or opinion? Do you need current information? Are multiple perspectives necessary? Do you need primary or secondary resources? For example, do you want original documents such as diaries, letters, and posters from a historic time period or would you prefer a historical review of these materials?

Students are typically asked to use a variety of information resources in a project.

Treat all forms of communication equally. Consider different channels of communication such as words, pictures, motion images, and sounds.

Public opinion polls are useful in tracing people's views on many important issues. Go to 42eXplore: Polls and Surveys to learn more about the poll and survey sites available online. You can also learn to create your own poll online. Try one at Zoomerang and SurveyMonkey. You can create a short, 50 participant, 10 day quiz for free.

Start by considering the places where you might find the answers to your questions. Who would have the information you need? Would you have to go to this place or talk to this person? Could you communicate through phone, email, or live interview? Could you use materials already published by this group? You might seek out some of the following people and places:

historical site
government agency
natural site
community members
cultural group
news sources
religious organization
political group

Selecting Resource Formats

Once you've identified the type of person or place that would have the information you need, consider the format that this information might take. What form of information do you need? Consider the following areas:

Multiple Forms
Interview Live
Web Pages
Video Conferencing
Audio: CD/tape
Charts, Graphs, Tables
Still Pictures
Realia (real objects)
E-book or E-zine
Reference Materials
Email, Chat, Discussion
Lots More....


Using Starting Points

It's helpful to provide a starting place for students to begin their exploration. Three to five resources provides a nice start for most projects. Select resources with a range of reading levels, interest levels, and a variety of information formats. Choose materials that will provide background information that will set the stage for the project. Consider creating a short web page containing these resources or bookmark them on student computers. Be sure to check these resources each time you teach the class. The information on the pages or the links may have changed.

Librarians call these starting places "pathfinders." Go to Electronic Materials: Pathfinders, Subject Guides & Thematic Resources, 42eXplore, and Teacher Tap: Education Portals and Starting Points for ideas.

Conducting an Internet Search

Rather than trying to discuss all the possible Internet search strategies and search tools on the page, go to Teacher Tap: Search Tools and Teacher Tap: Search Strategies

Webbing Information

Once you begin locating valuable information, think about organizing this information and adding strands to your "web of information." Go back to the graphic organizers discussed in the Wondering section and begin adding strands. Try the Webbing Chart PDF file and the Classifying Chart PDF file.


Create a search strategy. Ask yourself:

try itWebbing Checklist
Develop an activity that helps your students create a search strategy for identifying useful information.
Planning a Search Strategy - analyze your questions
Addressing Individual Differences - consider all learners
Identifying Types of Information - explore types and tools such as Zoomerang for polls.
Selecting Resource Formats - brainstorm possible formats
Using Starting Points - select 3-5 good starting resources
Conducting an Internet Search - develop search guidelines
Contemplating - reflect on progress

video clipView Sorting Information (1:41).

In this video, a student expresses concerns about her project and begins sorting through information. She asks the following questions: What? Where? How to use? How I did? - Excerpt from “Asking the Right Question”, Pt. 1 of Know It All Series by GPN / Univ. of NB

video clipView Visits and Interviews (3:14).

In this video, a student collects information from the library, visits a museum, and interviews a museum curator. - Excerpt from “Asking the Right Question”, Pt. 1 of Know It All Series by GPN / Univ. of NB

video clipView Project Clarity (0:43).

Carol Kuhlthau discusses the formulation phases of a project where students find clarity, their topic is less vague and they become more interested. – Excerpt from interview with Daniel Callison.

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.



Wiggling is often the toughest phase for students. They're often uncertain about what they've found and where they're going with a project. According to Webster's dictionary, wiggling involves moving to and fro.

In the wiggling phase, students evaluate content, along with twisting and turning information looking for clues, ideas, and perspectives.

Planning for Exploration

At this point in the process, consider the Multiple Intelligences of your students. Students wiggle with their minds and their bodies. Your interpersonal students will want to talk with others about what they've learned, your visual/spatial students will be ready to draw a picture, and your bodily/kinesthetic students will wander around the classroom thinking about the next step in the project. Unless you plan for these individual differences, this phase can be chaotic.

This planning may take the form of jigsaw discussions that get students talking and moving around the classroom or email communications with students in another school. Students working in small groups on a collaborate project can turn to the each other for support. However students working independently may need the support of friends, family, and teachers. Encourage students to use online support systems such as AllExperts sites or online pen pals and discussion groups.

Using Information Resources

As students begin to use information, they may need support. Reception scaffolds assist learners in dealing with information. They help direct student attention, record ideas, and organize ideas.

Some ideas for reception scaffords are listed below:

Anticipation Guide. Sometimes you need a resource that will get students thinking about a lesson. Anticipation guides provide questions to help students think about particular elements of your lesson. These guides might include questions, lists of words, or a presentation outline.

Graphical Guide. Some students learn best through visuals. Graphical organizers such as pictures, diagrams, and concept webs bring what may seem like disjointed elements together. You might provide a diagram of a story's structure or an information web of a topic. Timelines are a popular way to help students visualize historical events.

Project Guide. When faced with writing a term paper or developing a multimedia project, some students are lost without a clear set of expectations. An assignment guide can help a student through the process of designing, creating, presenting, and evaluating a project. This includes clear expectations, specific processes/products, and guidelines for assessment. Project checklists are also often included.

Reading Guide. As students read books or passages, they often get so caught up in the content that they forget to reflect on their reading. Reading guides can help focus learner attention by providing guiding questions related to the characters, setting, or plot of a reading. They may also include vocabulary lists, activities, and comprehension assistance.

Research Guide. When planning for a research project, some students need assistance with narrowing a topic, developing research questions, identifying key words, taking notes, and synthesizing information. You may want to provide research organizers to help students in their project planning. For example, the guide might include a sheet that contains the words Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why to help the student plan a newspaper article. Another project might include an empty chart that will help students in a comparison of political parties.

Study Guide. Students often have difficulty focusing their study efforts. A study guide can help direct student attention to particular aspects of a lesson through lists, formulas, diagrams, and other tools for organizing information.

Thinking Strategy Guide. Some students need help remembering. Try mnemonic devices, reading strategies, or listening protocols. For example, SQ3R is a popular reading technique: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. Like "cheat sheets" , these reminder handouts provide help with things like formulas, special keys on a keyboard, or pronunciations.

Tutorial Guide. Step-by-step instruction is a useful approach for many types of learning. For example, when students are learning a new computer software package, it is helpful to have each procedure listed along with sample screens. Students often follow the steps to create an end product such as a word processed letter.

This type of learning guide is also helpful in areas that involve physical skills such as art, creative movement, science labs, and physical education. For instance, you may include step-by-step instructions for creating a batik in art or doing a folk dance. These types of tutorials are helpful in learning many new concepts. When designing a guide, provide information, examples and nonexamples, followed by opportunities to practice.

Vocabulary Guide. It's helpful to provide students a list of the key words and phrases being used in a lesson. You may provide a list of words and ask students to write definitions. Or, you may want to distribute a completed guide to help students practice or review concepts.

Writing Guide. Logs, diaries, and journals are all tools to help students organize their thoughts and reflect on their experiences. You may wish to provide handouts that provide expectations or structure for these writing activities.

Skimming and Scanning

Skimming is particularly difficult when using online resources. Students seem to be drawn to information that looks familiar rather than concentrating on the questions that need to be answered. It's easy for them to get distracted by cool graphics and unrelated links. Encourage them to stay on task by keeping a graphic organizer nearby. Go to 42eXplore: Skimming and Scanning page for ideas.

Using Online Resources. Use the following tips for reading online materials:

Evaluating Information

Regardless of whether you're reading a newspaper, watching a video, or exploring a webpage, you need to carefully evaluate the information you find. Sometimes it's easy. The Weekly World News and National Enquirer aren't the best sources of quality information. Check out the Annals of Improbable Research for more silliness. However when it comes to evaluating web resources, the job becomes more difficult.

Information Overload

Students are often overwhelmed by the volume of information on a topic. Think of ways to overcome information overload through a systematic approach to information evaluation and organization.

Communicating and Collaborating

Once you've cycled through the questioning, searching, and evaluating parts of your project a number of times, you may still have holes in your thinking. Go the Teacher Tap: Ask-an-Expert section to focus your project and answer important questions. Discuss your project with other people who are interested in your topic such as other classes of students or professionals in your area of study.

try itWiggling Checklist
Develop an activity that helps your students use and evaluate information resources.
Planning for Exploration - consider all students
Using Information Resources - create reception scaffolds
Evaluating Information - create evaluation guidelines
Communicating and Collaborating - involve an expert

eye means readRead Teacher Tap: Evaluating Internet Resources - learn about evaluating information found on the web.

Read Information Overload: Threat or Opportunity? by Bernhard Jungwirth and Bertram C. Bruce in Reading Online (Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(5), February 2002).


Weaving consists of organizing ideas, creating models, and formulating plans. It focuses on the application, analysis, and synthesis of information.

According to Webster's dictionary, weaving involves forming a product by interlacing strands. Elements are elaborately combined to produce a coherent whole.

Processing Information

For many students, weaving ideas together is the most difficult stage. In many cases, students are running out of time as they put together their project. Rather than weaving a fine fabric, they create a quilt of unrelated pieces of information. Students need strategies for analyzing and synthesizing the information they have collected.

To encourage students to process information rather than simply copying, require transformations. For example, rather than taking notes on cards, ask students to create a chart or diagram of information. This visual must contain only words and phrases. Then this chart is used for the final report or project. This way you don't have to worry that students copied the sentences and paragraphs from the original source because they are working from their diagram.

Transformation scaffolds assist learners in transforming information into new forms. "They involve imposing structure on information, while reception scaffolds help learners perceive structure already in the information." (SANDI online workshop).

Concept Mapping

Concept maps are a popular ways to organize information during an inquiry. Go to Teacher Tap: Graphical Organizers for ideas.

New questions emerge as the ideas are woven together: Can the problem be resolved? How? Who would need to be involved? Is it realistic? What can I do? Weaving ideas together is an important information skill. Although information processing may begin at the low-end of Bloom's Taxonomy with locating background information and identifying elements, the goal is higher-order thinking including analysis and synthesis.

As students develop their projects, they should go through the following steps:


How is the information from different resources alike and different? Why? Compare and contrast sources and types of information. Identify new pieces of information that can be added to overall understanding. Use a three-column comparison chart to help organize and analyze information on topics where there are two or more perspectives. Try the Compare/Contrast Chart PDF file. For example, you might compare and contrast two views on public smoking. Or, you could compare fur and anti-fur industry perspectives.


What information is useful? Eliminate extra information and keep the most powerful ideas. Use one of the tools below:

try itTry NoteStar note-taking tool.


What's the best way to arrange the information? Identify key ideas. Cluster information together into categories. Determine a logical order of presentation.


It's time to look at the information from a variety of perspectives. Analysis involves breaking down information and ideas to see how they are organized and related to each other. What ideas can be combined? What should be kept separate. Try the What-If Chart PDF file to examine the possibilities related to an issue. For example, what would happen if UFOs landed? What would happen if we eliminated the current welfare system? What would happen if we tried an alternative form of punishment for particular crimes?

Consider activities that will help students formulate opinions based on facts. For example, involve students in discussions, debates, and collaborative projects. Ask them to sell their idea or develop arguments.


Formulate new ideas.

Reviewing the Results

As students look at their diagrams, notes, or other representations of the information they have collected, encourage them to consider the following questions:

Citing Sources

As students select resources to be used in their project, it's important to properly cite each source. Students need to understand the importance of the copyright law and the implications of plagiarism. Go to Teacher Tap: Copyright to learn about copyright and permissions to use information. Go to Teacher Tap: Citing Sources to learn about options for citing sources and creating bibliographies.


Over the past decade, educators have become increasingly concerned about plagiarism issues. Easy access to millions of digital web pages has made copying information easy. Many teachers are integrating lessons related to this topic into their curriculum across content areas. Go to Teacher Tap: Plagiarism from ideas on detecting and discouraging plagiarism.

try itExplore Avoiding Plagiarism from the Purdue's OWL. It shares some ideas for helping students avoid plagiarism. Take a self-test in plagiarism. Create a handout outlining key ideas that will help students avoid plagiarism.

try itWeaving Checklist
Develop an activity that helps your students processing information.
Processing Information - create transformation scaffolds
Reviewing the Results - create a set of questions for students review
Citing Sources - create a guide for citing sources

video clipGo to Looking at Learning.
Choose Workshop 3 - Conceptual Thinking (Windows Media Player - 6 Programs)

In this workshop, the focus is on concept maps as tools for helping students learn. Joseph Novak, Professor of Biological Science, explains how students learn by assimilating new concepts into their already existing frameworks and takes a teacher step-by-step through the design and process of concept mapping. You will see concept maps being used in a variety of ways in mathematics and science lessons and will even have an opportunity to make some concept maps of your own. (You will need to register for this FREE website from Anneberg/CPB.)

video clipView Notetaking (1:24).

Carol Kuhlthau discusses the different roles of notetaking in the information process. – Excerpt from interview with Daniel Callison.

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.



Wrapping involves creating and packaging ideas and solutions. Why is this issue important? Who needs to know about this? How can you effectively develop a product that will communicate your ideas to others?

According to Webster's dictionary, wrapping involves winding, folding, surrounding, or embracing a product for transportation or storage.

Students need to consider what kind of product will best communicate their vision to others. What's the best way to express your ideas to others? Synthesize the information you've collected into new words, develop a picture, create a chart, design a timeline, or make a video.

Choosing a Product

Start with your audience. Who needs to know about this topic? What's the best format or product for your audience?

Select a product to develop. Think about how you might use technology elements in a traditional product. For example, you might use photographs from the web or digital camera in a project. Consider word processing elements of a paper-based project.

Action Plan
Advertising Campaign
Board Game
Bumper Sticker
Card Game
Cassette Recording
Desktop Presentation
Futuristic model
Hidden picture
Greeting Card
Jigsaw Puzzle
Light Show
Museum Exhibit
Musical Composition
Musical Instrument
Oral Report
Panel Discussion
Paper folding
Quiz Bowl
Radio Show
Research Paper
Role Playing
Scavenger Hunt
Seek & Find
Short Story
Slide Show
Tape Recordings
Time line
Television Show
Web Page

Planning a Product

Successful products start with a good plan. There are many ways to plan including discussions, outlines, storyboard, and sketches. Some students need more help than others in getting started. It's a good idea to provide guidelines. You may also wish to provide templates or other starting points such as clipart resources. What production scaffolds do you think would be important in inquiry projects?

Planning Tools. Storyboards, notecards, diagrams, outlines, scripts, and other tools can make planning a product easier. Provide organizational tools to help students plan their products.

Templates. Consider providing students with the basic structure of the project, so they simply need to fill in the information or ideas. Provide templates for Powerpoint presentations, Hyperstudio stacks, Inspiration documents, word processing documents, and other publications.

Prompts and Starters. Preselect colors, backgrounds, clipart, quotes, sound clips, statistics, story starters, and other useful resources that might be incorporated into a product. Students can use these to generate ideas or save time while putting the project together.

Guidelines. Provide students with guiding questions or ideas for creating a particular type of production. For example, list hints for sound editing or ideas for writing reports.

Tutorials. Provide step-by-step instructions for simple and complex technology tasks that might be helpful in creating products. For example, you might provide directions for making an imovie or copying a picture from the web.

Samples and Models. Give students some examples and nonexamples that can be used as models for developing their products.

Both critical and creative thinking are needed to develop product. Students need to take the ideas they've woven together and formulate a new product.

Developing a Product

As students begin to develop their products, they may need assistance in writing or technology. Try some of the many technology tutorials available online.

try itWrapping Checklist
Develop an activity that helps your students select and develop a product.
Choosing a Product - develop a set of product options
Planning a Product - create production scaffolds
Developing a Product - select resources to assist in development

video clipView Presentation (1:01).

Carol Kuhlthau discusses the importance of students putting their ideas all together and addressing their problem or presenting their findings. – Excerpt from interview with Daniel Callison.

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.



Waving is communicating ideas to others through presenting, publishing, and sharing. Students share their ideas, try out new approaches, and ask for feedback.

According to Webster's dictionary, waving is a gesture or signal. Students need to develop waves to gain the attention of their audience.

Waving a flag, volunteering at a soup kitchen, marching for a cause, presenting to a county board, publishing in an ezine, and sending a video to a nonprofit organization are all effective ways to draw attention and convey ideas. Some students may contact local, state, national, or international agencies to share their ideas directly with organizations that can implement change. Others may publish their projects in print, video, or online form for other students.

Identifying an Audience

You've carefully explored issues, identified problems, and developed solutions. Who needs to hear, see, or read about your ideas? How can you have an impact? How will you share or communicate your ideas with others?

Service Learning. Service learning is about students becoming active members of their community. For instance, studentsmight work with a local community organization, learn about their work, and build web pages. Resources such as, and Internet's Progressive Gateway provide good starting points for these types of projects.

Expert Sharing. Explore ways to gain the attention of your audience. You may share your ideas with a local, regional, state, national, or international nonprofit agency, government organization, business, or industry. You might want to email an expert your results or findings. Ask what they think about your recommendation or conclusion. Go to Teacher Tap: Ask-An-Expert to locate experts in a wide range of fields, and Switchboard to find people and businesses.

Collaborative Projects. Try a collaborative project communicating with other classrooms. Go to Teacher Tap: Collaboration to locate students in other schools for sharing projects and Epals to locate classrooms, teachers, and students.

Contests and Events. Join a contest or event as part of your project sharing. The nice thing about a contest is that you have a specific timeline and set of guidelines to follow. Try doing a search in Google for "poetry contest" or "science contest". Go to Cyberfair and Giggle Poetry for ideas.

Ezine Publishing. Consider publishing in online ezines and kids pages. Go to CyberKids, CyberTeens, and KidsCom for ideas.

Web Publishing. Students can also share with the global audience by creating a web page. If you don't have your own class page, consider a free web-hosting service. Go to Project Poster for student project posting. Also consider website creators such as Google Sites and Weebly.

Communicating with Others

Developing effective communications involves more than just sending your product to an audience.

Purpose. As you design your communication, consider your purpose. Do you want to inform, instruct, persuade, or entertain? Are you interested in interaction or simply conveying your information? If you're interested in two-way communication, you need to build interactivity into your message. Will you ask your audience questions, will your audience ask the questions, or both?

Channels. Consider the best channel of communication for sharing. Will your audience use their hearing, sight, taste, touch, or smell to understand your communication? Will you use video, audio, text, or graphics? Which would be most effective? How will you transform your product into something that can be shared? In other words, if you created a skit can you videotape it? If you created a poster, could you scan it and send it through the Internet to another class?

Format. Think about the format of the communication. Will you share a print document, graphic, presentation, animation, web page, audio/video, portfolio, scrapbook, poster, mural, object, sculpture, diorama, or other item?

Sharing. Consider tools that will be needed to share with your audience. How will you interact with your audience? Will you communicate through the Internet such as an email, chat, video conference, or web page. Will you communicate through a live or recorded presentation, speech, discussion, debate, or demonstration?


Storytelling may seem juvenile to a group of teenagers, but it's one of the most powerful methods of communication known to humans. A good story tugs at the heart and elicits strong emotions. Go to 42explore: Storytelling for ideas.

try itWaving Checklist
Develop an activity that helps your students communicate with an audience. Identifying an Audience - select an audience for your project
Communicating with Others - develop a specific communications

video clipView Audience (2:33).

Carol Kuhlthau discusses the important of the concept of audience for student work and projects and highlights the importance of collaboration. – Excerpt from interview with Daniel Callison.

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.

Read Gaining a New, Wider Audience: Publishing Student Work on the Internet by Rachel A. Karchmer in Readling Online (2001).



Wishing is assessing, evaluating, and reflecting on the process and product. Students begin thinking about how the project went and consider possibilities for the future. Students have the opportunity to reflect on their project and express their desires for the future.

Some students wish they would have started earlier, asked more questions, or chosen a different topic.

It's helpful to explore a student project from multiple perspectives. Teachers, friends, peers, parents, and others may be able to provide useful insights for future projects. For example, your art, computer, and English teachers would each be able to provide different views on your project.

Assessing Student Projects

There are many ways to assess student work. Be sure that both process and product checks are part of any evaluation tool. Also consider self, team, teacher, and project assessment aspects to your plan. When looking at the process ask questions about each step including selecting a topic, questioning, searching, evaluating, organizing, analyzing, creating, and communicating information. Rubrics are one of the most popular tools. We've developed a separate area to explore this topic. Go to Teacher Tap: Student Project Assessment for ideas.

Revising a Project

Think about your project as an ongoing process. You might even continue to work on it after your class is done. Think about how you could expand or update your project. Who else might be interested in learning more about the topic? Think about expanding the format such as putting it on the web. You could ask people for feedback or ideas.

Reflecting on the Project

One of the most important aspects of the entire process is reflection. Students need a chance to stop, breathe, and think about their project. Explore reflection questions for both the process and the product.

A few sample questions can be found below:

try itWishing Checklist
Develop an activity that helps your students assess their project and reflect on the process.
Assessing Student Projects - create project assessments
Revising a Project - encourage revision
Reflecting on the Process - develop a set of reflective questions

video clipView Project Development and Assessment (2:19).

In this video, a student developed a meaningful product that reflected her understanding of the art topic. She also completed a self-assessment. - Excerpt from “Asking the Right Question”, Pt. 1 of Know It All Series by GPN / Univ. of NB

Use of this video clip complies with the TEACH act and US copyright law. You should be a registered student to view the video.


Learn More

101 Ideas for Combining Service and Learning. See how you and your students can have a real impact.

Critical Issue: Building on Prior Knowledge and Meaningful Student Contexts/Cultures from NCREL

Defining a Research Topic and Determining the Information Requirements from OASIS

Choosing A Topic from Duke Libraries Guide to Library Research

Harada, Violet (2002). Personalizing the Information Search Process: A Case Study of Journal Writing with Elementary-Age Students. SLMR, 5.

How Much Information? 2003

Integrating Search Strategies

Prior Knowledge. Excerpted from The Strategic Teaching and Reading Project Guidebook (Kujawa & Huske, 1995).

Strum, Brian W. (1999). The Enchanted Imagination: Storytelling’s Power to Entrance Listeners. SLMR, 2.

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