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Instruction Ideas and Activities: Keywords

Creative activities RIO librarians use in library instruction

Boolean Simon Says - Amber Pavlina

Have everyone who is a college student stand up. Then, if they are female, have them remain standing (AND). Have everyone sit down again. Have everyone who is wearing school spirit wear stand up. Then have anyone who is wearing spirit wear or a hoodie stand up (OR).

This is a very simple exercise that allows students to visually understand boolean operators.

The Fruit Market -- Eric Bradley

fruit stall by Ross Parker, 2006 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

At the beginning of many first year courses I show this picture on the screen and ask the following questions:

  • What do you see in the picture?
  • Please be more specific than ‘fruit’
  • What other things do you see?
  • In the background is a large store?  Where it is?
  • Provide an example of fruit which is also technology. (Apple, Blackberry)

From the activity I pull out the following questions:

  • What are the key terms?
  • What alternative words could you use?
  • What more specific terms could you use?
  • What related or broader subjects can you suggest?

Reference: Edwards, A. and Hill, V. (2012) Games used in teaching information literacy skills. Available from [accessed 10/8/2014].

Shared Google Sheet -- Tonya Fawcett

Have students log into a shared Google Sheet (spreadsheet) and answer a set of open ended questions about a specific research question.  What words would you use?  What alternative words would work?  etc.  Use Google Sheet to spur conversation about developing search terms in research.

January Berry NOT Halle Berry - Caroline Gilson

This lesson took place during a 50-minute session with first-year program students in select classes.
The focus was keywords, and a connection was made with a current campus speaker.  Using a reference to picture, students were asked to type "January berry" in a Google Image search, since these were the keywords recalled from mention of a picture in the speech.   In addition to the picture being in the results, pictures of Halle Berry and January Jones (with berry lips) are included.  This served as a good example for keyword searching and the use of AND, OR, NOT...  (not Halle Berry not a dish of berries).