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Research Skills: Scavenger Hunts

Sometimes students don’t understand how time is of the essence when doing research. They lack the skills to use text features, skim materials and find items quickly.

We’ve been working on this with our students and it’s a struggle year after year.

However, we have managed to find some activities that help students refine their research skills: scavenger hunts. It turns out that making research fun and game-like can have a positive impact on how students complete research.

The premise is simple: give students something to search for. We use scavenger hunts because they are low risk, short in time and help students build confidence by creating an opportunity to be successful.

Our scavenger hunts always start simple: Find the name of the province that has Fredericton as its capital city.
Then we branch out to something students are less likely to know: Find the capital city of the country of Guyana.
Once students can find these things quickly and simply using books (an online when we’re ready) they can begin to look for more complex items that are not as easily found.

We start off the task allowing students access to books and textbooks that we have already determined have information that will be valuable to students. We explicitly teach students how to read photographs, charts, pictures, maps and graphs so they can use the information to deepen their understanding. Once students have good information, we start to allow them to find information online-but a big part of this step is teaching students how to determine whether or not the online information is accurate. We teach students to fact check, This includes teaching students to find out about the website, verify the facts on more that one site and confirm the information is up to date.

So, while we do these activities over the course of a few days or weeks, we eventually set our students loose on a longer, more in-depth scavenger hunt. We teach in a Grade 4/5 classroom, so our students so the scavenger hunt for their content in social studies. you can get your own copy of these in our store.

Canadian Geography Scavenger Hunt
Alberta Scavenger Hunt
British Columbia Scavenger Hunt

These are not “quick” activities. We introduce them and then let students pick away at them over the course of the term (or in one case all school year-long) when they have all their work finished. And, we know there are more skills to prepare students to create quality research, but having students learn to locate information quickly has significantly helped our students with their research skills.

Do you use scavenger hunts? Do you have an idea for another one we can make with our students? Leave us a comment below.

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