Search and Report: Holidays
A mini-research project for students

[Nunber 3 in a series of 3]
Bill Pellowe (
Portions of this page will be included in an article appearing in Recipes for Wired Teachers (1999).

Overview: This two-stage search project provides further practice in using the Internet to explore cultural information on holidays or festival days in other countries. Within the initial confines of the holiday topic choice, there is a rather high degree of student autonomy in choosing areas to research in the second stage.
Time Frame: 4 or 5 class meetings of 60 - 90 minutes (if none of the work is done outside of class)
Aims: To further familiarize students with search engines. To develop the idea of searching for information for a later report. To develop summarizing skills. To develop word processing skills.

Stage 1

Preparation Stage 1: Choose an upcoming holiday or festival from a target language country. One which works well for me (as an American) is Halloween. Prepare a handout or e-mail message for each student:

Task Sheet: Halloween Search and Report
  1. What is Halloween? Search the Internet for information on Halloween.
  2. Send your teacher some key words about Halloween.
  3. Which Internet pages did you use? Write the URLs here:

Presentation Stage 1:

  1. Pass out the handout (or tell students to open the e-mail message you had sent them.)
  2. Explain that you want them to send you key words about the holiday or festival which summarize some of the main concepts associated with this holiday or festival.
  3. Students will have trouble understanding what you require of them, so give some examles of how you'd summarize a familiar holiday with keywords. One example based on the Japanese culture is "New Year in Japan"; key words would include nengajou (New Year postcards), otoshidama (New Year gifts of money), and so on.
  4. Ask that the students send you their list of key words by e-mail.

Practice Stage 1: Circulate to offer help if needed.
Output Stage 1:

  1. Students e-mail you their answers (alternatively, they could hand in a written list).
  2. Respond to the e-mail as it comes in. Depending on the contents of the messages, offer praise or encourage further searches.

Stage 2

Preparation Stage 2: Collect the key words which students sent you in Stage One.
Presentation Stage 2:

  1. Provide a list of the key words submitted by the students in Stage 1. One option is to read the messages and record the key words on a whiteboard.
  2. When finished, tell the students that they are now going to do further research (in groups of 2) on one aspect of the holiday by choosing a key word (or more than one closely related key words) to investigate. Inform them that they will give an oral report supported by a written handout. The written handout should contain some images from the Internet to support their report.
  3. Ask them to e-mail you the answers to the following questions: (1) Which key word topic are you most interested in? (2) Who do you want to work with?
  4. Monitor your mail closely. It works best if only one group (or at most, two groups) works on the same topic, so make it on a first come, first serve basis. As messages come in with topic choices, announce them to the class and record them on the whiteboard. (For example, "Etsuko and Kazuko are going to research jack o'lanterns.")

Student Presentation: See the section in "Internet Search and Report: Pets" for an overview of the oral report production, presentation, and variations if a computer projector is available.
Teacher summary: Students enjoyed learning about a holiday from my native culture, and they also seemed to enjoy the additional freedom of choosing their work partners and topics within the guided framework provided. You should pay close attention to their progress, however, as this cautionary tale illustrates: A student who chose "ghosts" began researching "ghost towns"; she believed that ghost towns were so named because they were haunted. Within this schema, the pages she found contradicted her expectations enough to confuse her, but not enough to persuade her that her initial appraisal of the term "ghost town" was wrong.