Search and Report: Pets
A mini-research project for students
[Nunber 2 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 short project provides further practice in using the Internet to find information about a simple topic which students may not know anything about. The activities culminate in a student report to the class on pets common in North America but uncommon in Japan.
Skill Area(s): Internet search, writing, summarizing, oral report
Specific Activities: search with Internet, write a report, use images from the Internet, create a handout, give a report.
Time Frame: 4 or 5 class meetings of 60 - 90 minutes
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.
Prerequisites: Students should already know how to use browser software, and should be fairly familiar with the idea of using search engines and the basics of using a word processor. They should also know how to save Internet images by, in Netscape, right-clicking (Windows) or option-clicking (Mac) and choosing the "save image" option (see "Links" for a tutorial page on saving images). Students should also know how to insert these images into word processing documents (in Word, simply choose "picture" from the "insert" menu).

Stage 1


  1. Prepare cards or strips of paper with the question, "What is a _____ ? What do I need to know to keep one as a pet?" Plan to have:
  2. For the blank space, insert the name of a pet which is common in a target-language region yet uncommon in the host country. Because I am an American teaching in Japan, I chose the names of pets common in North America, but perhaps uncommon in Japan. Good choices include: gerbil, guinea pig, hamster. Others which stretch the question criteria are: llama, guppy. Bad choices are canary and parrot (because there is too much detailed breeder information and not enough general pet information on the Internet).

Initial classwork:

  1. Allow each student to draw a card. Students with the same question form groups.
  2. Give the instructions: (1) Find information to answer the question. (2) Prepare a written report on the pet. (3) Collect images to use in the report. Require one report per group.
  3. Circulate to offer help if needed.

Stage 2: Presentation

After students complete their reports, tell them that each group will give an oral presentation of their reports. The oral presentation should include a handout. Demonstrate how a handout should contain an outline of the main ideas which the students will expand on as they give the presentation. (For example, Gerbil: Food: sunflower seeds. You say, "Gerbils enjoy eating sunflower seeds, but be careful not to give them to many! They can die if they eat too many.")

Variations: If a computer projector is available, students can use it to display their handout on the overhead screen as a visual aid.

Teacher summary: Students learn and practice summarizing skills when they create the handout for the presentation. Even though some students tend to copy text off of Internet sites for their initial reports, the outline / handout discourages plagiarism and encourages summarization.

Links: For a short tutorial for students on saving images from Internet pages, see