Thursday, July 24, 2008

Curriculum Project

Curriculum Project
Tim Chalmers

1. Overview:

i. Focus:

• The strategy for this assignment is twofold: firstly it is to give my senior students some guidance as to how to properly evaluate a website to determine whether or not it is credible for scholarly research.

• Secondly, the use of this strategy will assist students to do research in small groups on a historical figure I assign who is featured or related to our study of the play A Man for All Seasons. (e.g. – Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, etc.) As the royal lineage described in this play is complex, having some prior knowledge of each of the major characters and historical figures mentioned in the drama is essential to ensure an understanding of the play’s plot.

ii. What Gets Done?

• The students learn (and brainstorm) criteria for evaluating the credibility of web sites for research

• The students use this knowledge to evaluate 6 web sites (3 good or credible web sites, but also 3 that they deem non-credible with explanation to highlight the differences).

• The students use the good web sites to research their chosen character and create a “Wanted Poster” using their image and a list of the character’s “crimes” (i.e. – noteworthy aspects of their life, their deeds, and their actual crimes in some cases) to present to the class in a brief oral presentation.

• The web site evaluation, the poster and the oral presentation are all graded.

iii. Grade Level:

This assignment was designed for my ENG 4U English class, but could easily be adapted for any English course, since web site evaluation is a skill that students at all levels should learn.

2. The Details:

Lesson 1

1. As a class, I will present the following article, “Despite the Internet, the Google Generation Lacks Analytical Skills” and we will read it aloud and discuss how the tech-savvy teens of today are still not evaluating web content accurately. (25 minutes)


2. With the class I will brainstorm the various things to look for when evaluating whether or not a web site is credible. e,g, - Who is the author? Are they an expert in the field? How old is the web site? Has it been updated recently? Are their many ads of pop-ups that suggest the site may be commercial? etc. (15 minutes)

3. I will explain to the class that web sites such as Wikipedia,, etc., are NOT credible web sites and discuss the criteria we brainstormed.

4. The guidelines for evaluating a web site properly will be discussed. See the web link below for a summation of the kinds of questions to ask oneself when evaluating a web site: (10 minutes)


5. I will ask the class to consider 6-7 of the questions from the page (link above) to evaluate 6 web sites in total in pairs. The class will look for and evaluate 3 “good” and credible academic web sites and 3 non-credible web sites. (10 minutes)

6. The web site research will be for the “Wanted Poster” assignment attached below. Each pair will be assigned a different character from the play A Man For All Seasons to make the class familiar with its various characters. Since each of the characters is based upon a historical figure, the research will be easy to find. (10 minutes)

7. I will pair off the class and they will select their characters. Research will begin tomorrow.

ENG 4U A Man For All Seasons:

Research Project/Wanted Poster Presentation

Prior to our reading of A Man For All Seasons, we must first become acquainted with the people and the history upon which the play is based.
Working with a partner, you will collect data on one of the following topics. You will create a “Wanted Poster” detailing the “crimes” of your character (i.e.- the noteworthy details of their lives, and their real crimes, where appropriate). In order the make your poster as effective as possible you should include a visual and brief important points about your particular historical figure. You will be marked for both the quality of your information and the creativity of your slides.

The topics include:

1. Sir Thomas More
2. King Henry VII (7th)
3. King Henry VIII (8th)
4. Catharine of Aragon
5. Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain
6. Thomas Cromwell
7. Cardinal Wolsey
8. Pope Clement VII
9. Duke of Norfolk (Thomas Howard)
10. Anne Boleyn
11. Charles V
12. Elizabeth I
13. Mary Tudor
14. Robert Bolt
15. Bertolt Brecht

Lesson 2

1. Research period. (76 minutes in total) The class will work with their partners to evaluate and type up a proper analysis of 3 credible and 3 non-credible web sites using 6-7 of the questions from the readings and from our brainstorming. A suggested set of questions for their criteria are the following:

i. Who is the author? Are they an expert in the field?

ii. What type of domain does it come from ? Is the domain extension appropriate for the content? (educational, nonprofit, commercial, government, etc.)
a. Government sites: look for .gov, .mil
b. Educational sites: look for .edu
c. Nonprofit organizations: look for .org (though this is no longer restricted to nonprofits)

iii. Is the page currently updated or is the information out of date?

iv. Are sources documented with footnotes or links? Are there links to other resources on the topic?

v. Are there many ads or pop-ups that may distract the reader, or make this page very commercial?

vi. Is the information easy to read, and is the site easy to navigate? Some general comments here.

2. The class will type up the responses to each of these questions for each web site that they visit, and will include the link to the sites in their evaluation. Evaluations will be collected tomorrow, any work not done today will be homework.

Lessons 3 and 4 (76 minutes periods)

1. Today the evaluations are due. The class will then get back into their pairs to research information from the 3 (or more) credible web sites found for their evaluation to create the Wanted Poster for their character.

The poster should have a visual (either a web image or something hand-drawn) of the character and contain some biographical information about noteworthy events / facts about that character’s life. These constitute the “crimes” that the character is wanted for.

2. The class will use the rest of this period and tomorrow’s to put their poster together. (Note: This activity may take two periods).

3. Tomorrow the class will present their poster to the class in a brief, 5 minute presentation.

(**Materials needed include poster paper, markers, glue and tape.)

Lesson 5

1. Today the class will present their posters to the class, reading the information they have found in their web searches.

2. Each character researched is featured or mentioned in our next literature study, A Man for All Seasons. The class will take brief point form notes and record the information given by their classmates in an active listening exercise.

3. The presentations and posters themselves will be marked by me using the rubric featured below. (Note: rubric can be modified to include category analysis, this gives an idea of what is being evaluated).

Wanted Poster / Presentation Evaluation
Students: __________________________________________________________
Historical Figure: _______________________

Historical Detail: (K/U) /10

WANTED write-up:(C) /10

Creativity of the Poster:(T/I) /10

Written and oral conventions: (A) /10

Total: /40

3. Conclusion:

I love this assignment because it allows my senior classes to gain a very important skill for university; to be able to properly discern which web sites are credible and which are not reliable for research purposes is something that they will definitely use in their post-secondary studies.
The need for our students to be internet- literate is one that will only become more relevant over time, as most research done these days tends to be web based. This approach solves two problems: students leaving high school can become more discerning about the research they use to avoid future issues of credibility when researching papers in university. Also, it allows them to explore the historical background surrounding the characters of the play A Man for All Seasons which will allow them to have a richer understanding of the play.
To extend, both parts of this assignment can easily be adapted and modified to suit other English courses at any grade level. It would be a valuable experience for Grade Nines who will be doing proper research essays throughout their high school career. The Wanted Poster could also be used for other plays or novels, even with fictional characters. The research would be from the text itself, and the posters could reflect the qualities / deeds /”crimes” of the main characters.


looribee said...

Hey tim, this project has totally got me ready for our next assignment. I was happy to see that you chose an acitivity for senior level studetns. It seems that many of us are focusing on the lower levels. Nice approach!

Julie Twyford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,

The resource looks great! One of its best qualities is that it is a "before" activity, so often we focus on "during" or "after" activities of a particular text. But your ability to provide students with a comprehensible and fun "before" activity provides them with an understanding of the characters that we sometimes assume they have.

I agree that your activity is adaptable for all English classes. I think the applied level would equally enjoy this activity.

Do you find that their ability to use “good” internet resources improves after this activity, in particular the sites they use for their ISU or culminating activity?

Anonymous said...

...oops I meant to say "a comprehensive and fun" not “comprehensible”.

Great job, either way!!