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TeachNet Grant: College Research Skills: Evaluating Reliable Online Sources
Sarah-Bess Dworin

Bronx Lab School
800 E Gunhill Rd
Bronx, NY 10467

Grade/Subject: High School - Writing & Art History
About the Grant:

The project-driven unit of study in this proposal is designed for a senior seminar course in Public Art critique and creation.  The course is designed to prepare high school seniors for the rigors of college discussion, research, and writing.  Throughout the year, seniors study Public Art, meaning any artwork that is located in the public arena and is created to both reflect and shape public life.  In addition to studying these works in a traditional art historical format, students also make their own artistic creations that they install in sites throughout the Bronx and New York City. 

In the final quarter of the course, students engage in a long-term independent project that requires extensive research on an artist, genre, or artistic movement of the student’s choice.  The product of this research is two-fold: students will write a 15-page research paper in which they use evidence to defend an original thesis.  Students will also emulate the style of the artist they research by creating their own artwork.    

The use of the Internet is integral to this project.  Roughly 75% of the research for student’s papers will be conducted online, supplemented by reference books and online journals from the New York Public Library.  Not only will students rely on the Internet for research, they will also publish multiple drafts of their papers  (including the final draft) on a student blog they will learn to create.  In addition, students will document and post the progress they make on the emulation artworks, allowing for in-process viewing online.  

Many and diverse skills are required for this ambitious project.  For the research paper, students will learn how to develop a research question, evaluate the veracity of web sources, create an annotated bibliography, and cite evidence using MLA format.  As students must publish their work online, they will also learn how to blog responsibly and post photos and text online.  Finally, materials used in student artwork will vary greatly depending on the artist or genre they choose.  If a teacher wishes to replicate this unit, it is necessary to have basic supplies found in most art classrooms, or students must be willing to search for their own materials.  Most importantly, computers must be available for each student on research days.

How This Grant was Adapted:

The most exciting features of this project are: the emphasis on of student choice, the connection between writing about art and making art, and publicly sharing and publishing work online.   Because the topic of their exploration is so student driven, students are immediately more motivated, and the material is differentiated to their interest.  In addition to this aspect of student choice, the fact that the research must inform artwork that students create requires kids to get out of their heads a bit.  Research and writing can become a very heady process, but the requirement to create art reminds the students that their topic is deeply creative, and this creative element must not be forgotten.  Finally, online publication of the writing product and images of student art allows students to participate in an authentic dialogue about their work.  Additionally, sharing work with peers online introduces a heightened level of rigor.  When students know their work will be read and viewed by an audience, they are more inclined to revise and be concerned about the quality of their work.  Anticipating a Publication Party, during which the completion of written or visual work is celebrated as a classroom community, is an extremely effective way to increase student motivation to work hard and create a quality product.  Such a celebration could be replicated in any classroom for many kinds of units.

Project URL

Though my student's projects are not currently online, I hope that by the end of the year, each student will have their own online blog to give evidence of our work together. 

  1. Students will be able to develop an original research question to guide their exploration of the topic. 
  2. Students will be able to conduct key word searches to uncover online information.
  3. Students will be able to evaluate the veracity of web sources, employing strategies to detect false and accurate information online. 
  4. Students will be able to cite evidence using MLA format and create an annotated bibliography.
  5. Students will be able to identify qualities of ethical and unethical blogging so that they blog responsibly.

Websites Used
  1. http://easybib.com/
    This website asks for pertinent information about a research resource and converts it into multiple citation styles, fit for a bibliography.  Every college-bound student should have this website memorized!

  2. http://library.cornell.edu/okuref/research/skill28.htm
    This website helps students write an annotated bibliography.

  3. http://news.mywebpal.com/partners/865/public/news631918.html
    An article about concerns over teen blogging. (Good for classroom conversations.)

  4. http://weblogg-ed.com/2005/05/13
    An educational blogger writes about administrator/educators worry about the ability/inability to monitor students on the blogosphere. (Good for classroom conversations.)

  5. http://budtheteacher.com/wiki/index.php?title=Sample_Blog_Acceptable_Use_Policy
    From Bud the Teacher's Wiki, on suggested guidelines for the student use of blogs.

  6. https://www.blogger.com/start
    Still the easiest, cheapest, fastest way to start a blog, even for educational purposes. (It's often difficult, depending on your school's level of technological advancement, to create a class site off the school's webpage.)
Standards Addressed:

The Arts

Standard 1: Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts

Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts (dance, music, theatre, and visual arts) and participate in various roles in the arts.

Standard 2: Knowing and Using Arts Materials andResources

Students will be knowledgeable about and make use of the materials and resources available for participation in the arts in various roles.

Standard 3: Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art

Students will respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to other aspects of human endeavor and thought.

Standard 4: Understanding the Cultural Contributions ofthe Arts

Students will develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.

Mathematics, Science, and Technology

Standard 2: Information Systems

Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.

Standard 5: Technology

Students will apply technological knowledge and skills to design, construct, use, and evaluate products and systems to satisfy human and environmental needs.

English Language Arts

Standard 1: Language for Information and Understanding

Students will listen, speak, read, and write for information and understanding. As listeners and readers, students will collect data, facts, and ideas; discover relationships, concepts, and generalizations; and use knowledge generated from oral, written, and electronically produced texts. As speakers and writers, they will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to acquire, interpret, apply, and transmit information.

Standard 3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation

Students will listen, speak, read, and write for critical analysis and evaluation. As listeners and readers, students will analyze experiences, ideas, information, and issues presented by others using a variety of established criteria. As speakers and writers, they will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to present, from a variety of perspectives, their opinions and judgments on experiences, ideas, information and issues.

Lesson 1:

Web Source Evaluation: "Can I Believe You?" 

Project Objetives: Students will be able to:

  1. Recognize that, even though it's in writing, web resources are not always correct.
  2. Analyze the accuracy of a web resource. 


  • Web-Source Reflection handout (below)
  • LCD projector
  • Computers for each student with Internet access


  1. Warm-Up: Students read a well-written paragraph about Andy Goldsworthy, an Environmental Artist known to the class.  The paragraph is convincing and contains much information on the artist's biography and important works.  Students are asked to take notes on the 'facts' presented in this paragraph.  Students are then provided with a projection on the board of the actual website from which it was gleaned, which, it emerges, the teacher wrote and posted as a response to a string on an art blog.  None of the facts are correct. 

  2. Mini Lesson:
    1. What is a web-source evaluation? A review of information presented on a website that includes making a judgment about whether the source is credible or not.
    2. Why are we evaluating web sources?  Anyone can upload information to the World Wide Web.  As researchers, it is our job to determine what information on the web is accurate and useful, and which information is not reliable.  Most 5th graders can post an essay on a website.  Does this mean it's a reliable source of information?
    3. How will we evaluate web-sources? a) Search the internet for information you want to use in your paper.  b) When you find information you think supports the ideas of your project, complete a Web-Source Reflection (below) for each source you want to cite in your project.  For example, if you want to use three different web-sources, you need to complete three separate evaluations.  c) If you cannot find good answers to the questions asked on the Web Source Reflection, then your source is probably a bad one and you shouldn't use it for your paper.  d) When you cite web-sources, make sure you use MLA format.

  3. Workshop: Web Source Reflection

Name of Web-source: _____________________________________

URL: __________________________________________________

  1. What makes the author an authority on this subject?

  2. Is the author accredited or endorsed by a reputable organization?

  3. Is the intended audience appropriate for the kind of research you are doing?  Who is the intended audience?

  4. How is the information presented (fact, opinion, propaganda, etc.?) If this is an opinion piece, or a work of criticism, does the author provide sufficient evidence to support his/her claims? Describe.

  5. Is there evidence of bias (cultural, religious, political, etc.)?  How can you tell? If bias exists, how will it inform your work?

  6. What is the date on the web page or article?

  7. Is the information current? How can you tell?

  8. Is new research being conducted or is this author reviewing previously conducted research?  How can you tell?


Students will compare and contrast one accurate web-source with an inaccurate one, answering the questions: What are the key differences and the deceptive similarities between the two? How would the use of the inaccurate resource change your paper?

Lesson 2:

Thesis Development: "Easy as Riding a Bike"

Project Objectives: Students will be able to:

  1. Brainstorm an idea and develop it into a thesis statement.
  2. Support the thesis statement with main points.
  3. Identify accurate web-sources to support thesis. 


  • Thesis Development handout (below)
  • 1 Long paper strip (paper noodle) for each student & markers
  • Several Post-its for each student
  • Computers for each student with Internet access


  1. Warm-Up: Students complete Step 1, and, after 10 minutes, Pair Share.

  2. Mini Lesson:
    1. As a whole class, students share out possibilities for Step 2.
    2. Students are given 10 minutes individually to choose ne of those topics and create an original thesis.
    3. Pasta Party!  Each student writes his/her thesis statement on a paper noodle & posts for the class to read.
    4. Feasting! Students walk around, as a gallery walk, reading classmate's thesis statements and give written feedback on Post-its.

  3. Workshop: Students take down their thesis statements and, using the feedback, revise their thesis statements and continue with the rest of the handout independently.

  4. Share Out: In Pairs

Thesis Development (Handout):

  1. Pre-Write: Do one form of pre-writing (word-web, non-stop writing, bullet list) regarding the topic of riding a bike.

  2. List two different areas that you could research about bike riding:

    1. ________________________________________________________________


    2. ________________________________________________________________


  3. Create a thesis around one of these topics that:
    1. Makes a claim that the reader can agree or disagree with
    2. Reflects knowledge of material
    3. Proposes an idea that can be defined and defended
    4. Has a specific scope, focus and confident tone


  4. Write down your revised thesis:


  5. Write down three main ideas that you could talk about in a paper that relate to your thesis that you wrote above.








    In the space below, create a short outline that includes your thesis, the main points and supporting details that you'll need to include to establish your thesis.

    Thesis: _____________________________________________________________

    ____________________________________________________________________ Main point


    ____________________________________________________________________ Details: · · · Main point


    ____________________________________________________________________ Details: · · · Main point


    ____________________________________________________________________ Details:···

  6. Go to the computer and find one source that you could use in writing about this paper and cite it in correct MLA format (you may use a the MLA Handbook to help you).
Lesson 3:

Compiling an Annotated Bibliography: "Show Your Work"

Project Objectives: Students will be able to:

  1. Write an annotation to briefly and accurately summarize information found in the resource cited.


  • Annotated Bibliography Handout (below)
  • Computers for each student with Internet access


  1. Warm-Up: Students respond to prompt: "Write down your favorite quote--anything from a quick one--liner to a longer passage." Then, students must try to find the source of that quote by using the Internet.

  2. Mini Lesson:
    1. An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.
    2. Students read several model annotations & discuss:  What are the key features of these annotations?  What purpose might such an annotation/ summary of a resource serve?  Who might use such a summary?

  3. Workshop:
    1. Students use the following link for more guidance on how to write an annotated bibliography.  
      Engle, Michael; Amy Blumenthal, and Tony Cosgrave. “How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography.” 20 November 2002. Cornell University Library. 31 August 2003.
    2. Students use the following handout to write their own annotaions for resources they've researched for their essay. 

    Annotated Bibliography Handout

    Directions: Use this worksheet to assist you with your bibliography.  This worksheet does not take the place of your annotated bibliography.  Use additional sheets as necessary.

    TOPIC: ____________________________________________________________________________________

    AUTHOR(S) OR EDITOR(S): ___________________________________________________________________

    TITLE OF ARTICLE/BOOK/WEBSITE/VIDEO: ____________________________________________________

    ADDRESS OF WEBSITE :______________________________________________________________________

    PERIODICAL NAME: _________________________________________________________________________

    PUBLICATION CITY: ________________________ PUBLISHER:______________________________________

    DATE of PUBLISHING/ACCESS;______________    PAGES_________  PERIODICAL VOLUME/ISSUE______

    Comments should consider the following questions:

    Summary: What is the author's topic? ______________________________________________________________

    What is the author's thesis or main argument? _______________________________________________________

    What type of information is presented? ( For example, does it primarily provide background, give an overview of both sides of a controversy, provide statistics or data, or take a particular stance?)


    Evaluation: What are its strengths? ____________________________________________________________________

    What are its weaknesses? ____________________________________________________________________________

Lesson 4

Accountable Teen Blogosphere: "Oh No You Didn't!"

Project Objectives: Students will be able to:

  1. Identify harmful effects of unaccountable blogging. 
  2. Identify positive uses of blogging for classroom purposes.
  3. Craft a personal manifesto on the use of blogging for classroom purposes.  


  • Computers for each student with Internet access


  1. Warm-Up: Individually, students read EITHER web resource #3 or #4 online.  After reading and taking notes, students Pair Share using the following prompt: "What, according to the author of your article, are the key concerns with teenagers blogging?"
  2. Mini Lesson:
    1. Class as a whole reads concerns in 'popcorn' mode, where students call out phrases at random, with the purpose of getting all the ideas on the table. 
    2. Class debate: Students must either take the position that A) blogging should not occur in our classroom because it can be harmful when unaccountable or B) the many positive uses of accountable blogging outweigh the negative possibilities.  
    3. Class will decide whether and how to monitor the class' blog.  Some possibilities could include: setting ground rules for the class, developing sentence starters to help students give feedback kindly, etc.
    4. Each student will, using several written models of accountable blogging to guide them, write one comment giving feedback to a classmate about the photos of in-process artwork students just posted on the blog. 


Students will post to the blog their personal manifesto, or a declaration of the way they promise to blog accountably.  This accountability manifesto will appear at the top of their page so that they will be reminded of their pledge. Students may use web resource #5 to guide them. 

Sarah-Bess Dworin

Sarah-Bess Dworin served as a youth outreach worker for three years, facilitating experiential education workshops for adolescents. She attended Teachers College, Columbia University, receiving her MAT in Secondary English in May, 2001. She currently teaches at Bronx Lab School, a small Empowerment Zone high school, where she has taught for five years.



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