Gathering Your Tools


No sailor goes out to sea without a rope. No pilot goes without a radar system. No driver of cars goes without a steering wheel. Travelers need their tools.

Dear Explorer,

You must gather your tools before you set out on this exciting journey of exploration.


You don’t know what tools to gather?

I encourage you to pause and think about what you are setting out to do. What information do you want to find? Christopher Columbus set out to find a quicker route to India. He ended up bumping into “The New World” instead. You can think of that as a “happy accident” if you like, but he didn’t find what he was looking for.

On your journey you will find many things that are interesting. This is a happy thing. Yet remember your purpose. Set a specific goal and make sure you stay on track to achieve it.

So today you are going to prepare your tools.

Step One

Look at your questions. Circle the important words in the questions. Now think of the types of information you will need to have to answer the question. Make a list of information you will need to find your answers.

For example, if you want to study the history of the toothbrush you can make a list like this one:

definition of a toothbrush

origins of the toothbrush

how the toothbrush has changed over time

the pros and cons of toothbrushes

toothbrush maintainence

current trends in toothbrush manufacture

Step Two

Get another piece of paper and  draw a line down the middle. At the top of one column write “Opinions” and label the other column “Things I think are facts”. Now brainstorm everything you already know or opinions you have. Get it on the page. Don’t worry. If you think of something later you can still add it to this list.

Step Three

Brainstorm all the words you can think of that relate to your topic. Focus on those words you circled.

You will be looking for words to act as keywords for your search. Early explorers used the stars. They knew they were off course when the stars didn’t line up. The words you use as you search are like the stars – they help you move toward the object of your search.

So think of all the aspects of your search. What words come up for you? What other topics come up when you think of your topic?

Now go to Tag Galaxy and type in some of those words you came up with. Did you think of any of the tags that come up? Click on one you would like to explore and you will see more tags. Do any of them apply to your question? Write down any discoveries.

Questions and keywords

Want to know what Standards you are covering? Read on, Dear Explorer

MSLA 1.10 Identify existing knowledge as well as additional information necessary to solve the problem.

MSLA 1.16 Identify pre-existing knowledge, as well as additional information necessary to solve the problem.

MSLA 2.11 Identify key words to find information on a topic.

MSLA 2.16 With assistance, select and modify keywords and phrases for information seeking purposes.


Author: lyndashoup

School Librarian who loves a good search for information, a good read and teaching young people the joy of information sleuthing. Book Reader. Art Journaler. Paper Folder.

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