The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 1 - Page 49

Content Contributions

Comprehending expository text is highly dependent on the reader using background knowledge to form logical relationships among the presented ideas (Williams, 2005).

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began their initial planning by completing a story elements graphic organizer I provided within the WebQuest. In the organizer, students developed an overview of the beginning, middle, and end of their story. They also had to plan what characters they would include in addition to Stanley, as well as a problem and solution. Next, students worked together to create a draft. To do this, my students used RoundTable, a Kagan Cooperative Learning structure (Kagan & Kagan, 2009), where a group of students take turns writing sections of a story and passing the paper around the table for others to add to until the team agrees the story is complete. Through this process, students in each group took turns physically writing a portion of the story as their teammates supported them with ideas based on their research, word choices, and spelling suggestions. Finally, after revising, editing, and conferencing with me, each group created a PowerPoint presentation as their published piece. In the end, each group came up with a creative story that not only intrigued their classmates, but also taught them something about the continents in an interesting and kid-friendly way. The stories ranged from Flat Stanley keeping the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling to the ground, to collecting water from the Amazon Rainforest to refill Angel Falls, to even discovering that Lady Liberty’s torch had been stolen and hidden in Niagara Falls!

Ikpeze & Boyd (2007) stated, “Inquiry-based learning like WebQuests facilitates not just reading and writing but other vital aspects of literacy such as participation in meaningful activities, explanations, reflections, and strengthening of critical thinking skills” (p. 653). Throughout the project, my students were able to really see and understand different places in our world in a new way. They were going beyond an abstract picture on a map to seeing what these places looked like in real life. The students were also able to go beyond basic research of nonfiction text and apply their learning to create a fiction story. Although this process seemed daunting in the beginning, over the years I modified the project, making it more manageable for second graders and allowing them to have an engaging learning experience.

A final advantage of using a WebQuest to teach this unit was the added technology standards that were met (standards are listed on the WebQuest link provided below). Students worked cooperatively to complete Internet research and shared writing projects. It enabled them to use those strengths that are not always activated in an early elementary classroom. I found that at the beginning of my teaching career I often underestimated what my students could accomplish with technology. As I worked with groups on the finishing touches of their published PowerPoint presentations, it was surprising to see what the students quickly picked up about the program and discovered on their own. Our students have grown up in a world of technology. True, their background may not be in academic areas, but when we model for them how to use these tools, what they can achieve is remarkable.

Overall, the WebQuest expanded my students’ knowledge of our world, provided an opportunity to practice researching techniques, elicited creativity and critical thinking, and promoted 21st century skills. In the past, my students knew that North America is located above South America on a map. Now they know why the Leaning Tower of Pisa leans, what plants and animals live

in the Great Barrier Reef, and how the Great Pyramids were built. They have a connection to these places rather than just knowing a name or location, and these are the connections that will stay with them. They have also worked in teams to apply their knowledge and create something new. Completing this WebQuest has definitely expanded my students’ ideas about the world and is helping them on their journey to lifelong learning.

If you would like to utilize my WebQuest in your own classroom, you can find it at the following web address: http://clgump.wix.com/flatstanley#!.

References

Brown, J. (1964). Flat Stanley. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Ikpeze, C. B., & Fenice, B. B. (2007). Web-based inquiry learning: Facilitating thoughtful literacy with WebQuests. The Reading Teacher, 60(7), 644-654.

Kagan, S., & Kagan, M. (2009). Kagan cooperative learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing.

Kingsley, T., & Tancock, S. (2013). Internet inquiry: Fundamental competencies for online comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 67(5), 389-399.

Mangelton, J., & Castek, J. (2008). Engaging students with webquests. Book Links, 7(6), 46-47.

Vacca, R. T., Vacca, J. L., & Mraz, M. (2011). Content area reading: literacy and learning across the curriculum. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Cheri Gump is in her fifth year of teaching second grade at David Harrison Elementary in Springfield, MO. She is currently working on her master's degree in literacy from Missouri State University, from which she also graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 2011.

Click here to go to Webquest.org