Located in in Kansas City, Missouri, Gracemor Elementary School is part of the North Kansas City School District and enrolls approximately 700 students. Students in Andrew Rodenberg’s fifth-grade class recently used Explora, EBSCO’s dedicated search interface for K-12 students, to research topics in preparation for writing and delivering a persuasive speech advocating for change.
A Versatile Research Tool
According to school librarian Jamasa Huntley, Gracemor Elementary School’s fourth and fifth grade classes are Explora’s most frequent users, especially during research units. Students can easily access the interface from the library website’s Destiny homepage. Last year, when schools closed during the coronavirus pandemic, Huntley included Explora on her online Genius Hour research choice board.
Huntley’s promotion of Explora caught the attention of fifth-grade teacher Andrew Rodenberg, who now champions the research tool among his students. Recently, he launched a project-based English Language Arts unit that asked students to research and write a persuasive speech focusing on the question: “How can you change the world?”
“I wanted to give kids the autonomy to choose what they wanted to write about and give their speech about,” Rodenberg explained. “It could either be something on large scale, or it could be something in their world. I've got topics ranging from ending racism to needing longer recesses.”
Once students chose their topics, they needed to develop a thesis based on their stance and support it with reasons and evidence.
“That's where Explora comes in,” said Rodenberg, who doubles as Gracemor Elementary School’s technology specialist. “When you're dealing with fifth graders, they like to push the easy button. They like to go to [the internet] and just type in search terms, and you just don't know what's going to pop up. With Explora, students get reputable and reliable sources at their fingertips.”
Explora allows students to conduct simple searches or browse topics by category. Popular topics include overview articles to provide students with the background information they need to get started with their research. From the search results list, students can then use filters to narrow their results by source type ― including books, magazines and videos ― and by Lexile range. Rodenberg said the Lexile® levels, which he correlates to Fountas & Pinnell, make it easy for him to help students find articles that match their reading abilities.
Students also enjoy using the citation tool to help them format source citations properly and the Text-to-Speech feature to hear articles read aloud.
“Explora was obviously created with equity in mind because I think that the Text-to-Speech feature on there is amazing, especially for some of my folks who aren't the strongest readers,” Rodenberg said. “There are a lot of different features that I think makes it easier [than the internet].”
In addition to providing students with a safe and reliable place to conduct research, Rodenberg said, Explora is also preparing them for the more academic research they’ll encounter as they advance to middle school, to high school and beyond.
“Students are developing muscle memory,” Rodenberg said. “They’re learning how to read and pull information from articles that are more academic than what they'd see if they just did [an internet] search.”
When you're dealing with fifth graders, they like to push the easy button. They like to go to [the internet] and just type in search terms, and you just don't know what's going to pop up. With Explora, students get reputable and reliable sources at their fingertips.
— Andrew Rodenberg, Grade 5 Teacher
Gracemor Elementary School
Explora can help educators scaffold information literacy and research skills instruction.
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