Thursday, October 20, 2016

Simple Search Lifesavers for Students

Recently one of my sons brought home a school assignment where he was supposed to visit five websites and then answer a few questions from each. Sounds pretty simple, right?

I thought the same until I noticed his attitude change from positive (well as positive as an attitude about homework can be) to confused to frustrated. I went over to investigate what the problem was and to see if I could help. What I found was a printed worksheet that asked him to visit the following five sites:

This was a paper worksheet with printed web addresses. Not a Google document, or a blog post, or a Google Classroom announcement, or any sort of digital format with clickable links.

As a 6th grade boy with a short attention span and basic keyboarding skills, he was trying to type in these URL’s … and failing miserably. Between the five sites that’s 353 characters to type in, without messing up any of the slashes and dashes.

Thankfully this was a great chance to turn a challenge into a learning opportunity. See below for two simple searching tricks I showed him that made the assignment a snap, and may help you and your students as well.

Tip #1 - Searching for URL’s

From time to time you may come across a web address that is not clickable. It might be because it is printed on a piece of paper, or it might be in an image, or maybe someone is just showing you the site on their device. If the web address is long, it may be challenge to type everything correctly, including all the dots and tildes and other symbols that can show up in a URL. This is especially true for kids.

Chances are though, you do not need to type in the full web address to be able to go to the website. Instead you can search for the URL.

The key is to pick a few unique words from within the web address, enter those words in a normal Google search, and most likely one of the top results (if not the very top) will be the website you are trying to get to.

For example, instead of having my son type in the full web address for:

I had him type in a search for:

picturethis migrant

The very first search result was exactly the webpage we were looking for. With a simple click on the result, he was at the site without having to type in an 87-character long address.

For the next website at:

He chose to run a search for just:

mayoclinic valley fever

Once again, the top result was the site he needed (with it’s 89-character long address). So in short, instead of just searching to find general information, you can also search to find specific URL’s.

Tip #2 - Searching within a webpage

Now that my son had made it to the websites he needed, the first half of the process was complete. How he had to answer several questions about the content on each of the sites. Again, not a difficult task in theory, but this can be more challenging when the webpage is long with a large amount of text.

To help him with this portion, I taught him how to search within a webpage. Once you get to a website, you can easily run a second search to locate where on the page certain words show up. Here’s how:

  • When you are on the webpage you want to search within, press the following keys:
  • Ctrl and F (on a PC or Chromebook)
  • Command and F (on a Mac)
  • This will open a search box in the top right corner of your web browser.
  • Type in a word you want to find on the page.
  • The word will now be highlighted on the page anywhere it shows up.
  • You can click the up and down arrows in the search box to jump to each location in the page where the word can be found.

Again the key is to pick an appropriate word to help locate relevant parts of a webpage. For example, to answer the question “Describe what happened in October of 1933 in California’s San Joaquin Valley” my son did a search for “Joaquin” to jump to the section of the page that dealt with that content.

So when you or your students are looking for information online, don’t forget the “second search”. Search once to find the website you need, but then search a second time within the page to find the specific content on the page.


Learning some searching tips can help save time, reduce frustration, and allow students to focus in on the content they are learning. These two simple search tricks helped my son complete his homework in a flash, so we still had time together as a family to watch “The Flash”. That’s a lifesaver in my book!

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at and on Google+ at


  1. Thanks, Eric. Two awesome tips for minimizing frustration!

  2. CTRL F is my best friend and use it all the time. I will have to pass the other tip on as well. Now show your son how to teach his teacher how to make short URL so he can get some extra credit!

    1. Yes, I love URL shorteners! I typically use so I can customize the link.

  3. Brilliant! Thank you Eric for these wonderful tips.

  4. You always have excellent tips!

  5. Thank you for sharing. I wonder if the teacher had set up a Symbaloo with these sites if that would have helped. I have this for my third graders and it is a tremendous help to them.

    1. I agree. Something like Symbaloo would have helped avoid the problem in the first place. But again it was a good learning opportunity for him.

  6. I'm adding these tips to my searching skills class. Thanks Eric!

  7. Be sure to grammar comma checker online only with the best sources online. Finding one that’s credible and legit in the things that they offer would also be best. Now go ahead and find top sources online.

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  9. For your kids I also recommend install some monitoring applications from this blog

  10. Thanks Eric. Great stuff as usual. Do you have a "Go to" resource created for more efficient Google searches? I apologize if I missed this somewhere in your blog. Thanks