1st Year English Library Research project Biography

1st Year English Library Research project Biography

         research on a famous person

         gathering information from a variety of sources including non-fiction books, encyclopedias and websites

         covering reading skills (skimming, scanning), finding information, note-taking, Internet

         using a search engine including exercise

         note-taking from the internet, note-taking from books

         how to write a bibliography

         presenting your information, your talk.


2nd Year History

         Covering misinformation and disinformation giving examples of websites, photos

         strategies for searching

         searching the Internet effectively; searching the Internet using Google, URLs and Domain names

         evaluating websites and books including quick quiz on evaluation

         note-taking from the internet, note-taking from books

         resource search for resources on John F Kennedy (they have to include specific details / questions relating to – biographies of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald, describe what events happened before, during and after the assassination, find and look at different conspiracy theories


Curriculum for Excellence Audit

audit of IL activities and how they fit into the CfE


Power Point presentation on work given at Project Open Meeting 28th May 2008

 “Using the Library can be fun!” 




About the school

Ardrossan Academy is a fully comprehensive non-denominational school serving the towns of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and West Kilbride.  The school roll, which has fallen steadily over the past 5 years is 960, with an annual intake of approximately 175 pupils.  One fifth of pupils are in receipt of free school meals.

All 1st year classes take part in the Biography Project at some point between January and March each year.  This enables pupils to have some experience of using the Library before they begin.  The project involves 2-3 periods of preparation in class, 4 periods of research in the Library and 8-10 periods back in class when pupils make their booklets and prepare and present their talks.

This project was originally an animal project that had been carried out since the 1990s which involved making a poster or leaflet.  It was decided to update the project to attempt to involve more focused research skills, allow pupils the scope to produce higher quality work and to reflect the increased availability of the Internet within the school  


Project aims

The aims were to develop and reinforce information skills already taught by English teachers and the Librarian, enable pupils to produce good quality work and give pupils a sense of achievement.  The project was originally designed to fit in with 5-14 Language Outcomes on Listening, Talking, Reading and Writing, with particular regard to listening for information, conveying information, reading for information and functional writing.

Now the aims are more closely linked to the Curriculum for Excellence: enabling pupils to become Successful Learners – using literacy and communication skills, using technology for learning, thinking creatively and independently, learning independently and in groups and linking and applying different kinds of learning in new situations.  It also allows pupils to become Effective Contributors by communicating in different ways and in different settings, working in partnerships and being creative.  



Process – first steps

The staff involved one English teacher and the Librarian, who were allowed 2 development days at Education Resource Service Headquarters.  Their first task was to decide what topic to use for the project.  One suggestion was authors, but after discussion it was decided to widen the scope to other famous people as obtaining sufficient numbers of suitable resources was an issue.  It was also felt that pupils did not have a wide enough knowledge of authors.  

Staff looked at the original 2 animal project booklets to see if there was anything they could take from them.  The booklets were out of date and confusing therefore it was decided to disregard them and start afresh.

Both staff worked together on most parts of the project, but also produced some elements on their own in relation to their own areas of expertise.

Process – making worksheets

The next task was to make the classroom lessons on reading for information and note-taking.  Staff looked for suitable information to use for skimming, scanning, finding information and note-taking.  It was decided to use Betsy Miller, Britain’s first female sea captain for one of the articles as she was from Saltcoats and staff wanted to have a local dimension to the project.  Tasks and questions were then set using the information which had been adapted to make it suitable for pupils’ ability levels.   Information on skimming and scanning was based on existing English Department worksheets.

Process – resources

A list of famous people was then drawn up, based on the books available in the school Library.  The Librarian also spent time searching for appropriate new biographies, but had limited success as there are not many suitable biographies on the market of people the pupils want to do.  Some books were even ordered from the United States. She was able to add some titles to the Library stock of people from the world of pop music, films and sport. 

The Librarian looked at various search engines and decided to use the BBC website and Yahooligans.  She made a search engine exercise using the BBC search engine, which involved pupils finding answers to questions from one particular website as well as answering questions on the use of a search engine. 

The Librarian then set about finding suitable websites for pupils to use.  Weblinks to sites were put onto the school’s own website to allow pupils quick, easy access to information on the Internet.  Pupils are also able to search for their own websites, but they are directed in the first instance to these weblinks.  They are also useful to support less able pupils.  Websites were chosen with all abilities in mind.

Process – the final touches

Learning Intentions and Success Criteria were drawn up by both staff and an introduction for the booklet was written, explaining the tasks involved.  The Librarian produced an information sheet on how to write a bibliography while the teacher produced information for pupils on the talk element of the project.  She also produced instructions on the format of the booklet and tips on how to put the booklet together. 

The design of the booklet

Decisions had to be made as to the design and layout of the booklet.  This was discussed on the second development day several months after the initial day.  It was decided to put all information and pupil worksheets together in the same booklet as the previous dual booklet animal project had caused confusion among pupils.  Clip art was sourced to add to the worksheets and decisions were made as to the order of the sheets within the booklet.

The project was trialled with two classes and some minor changes made to the booklet where needed.  The project was then rolled out to the entire yeargroup. 




Staff learned that pupils enjoyed taking part in the project and did indeed feel a real sense of achievement with their work.  Each year some of the booklets are photographed and put on the school website for all to see.  Pupils are delighted when their work is chosen to be displayed in this way. 

Some pupils are so enthusiastic about their project they will do extra work at home and take great care and pride in their work. 

Staff also learned the importance of continually updating the booklets, even within the few months that the project is carried out.  Booklets are now not printed out for the whole yeargroup at the beginning of the project, as changes can happen very quickly on the Internet and invariably pages have to be updated within the booklet.

The people that pupils choose for their project are monitored, and those people not chosen, are removed.   The Librarian attempts to replace them with people that the pupils have an interest in, depending on resources available.  This proves, every year to be the most problematic element of the project. 


Next steps

Weblinks have to be maintained and added to.  These are generally checked in December each year.   Pages relating to using the Internet are checked and updated as necessary each year too.  The design of the BBC website changed so much in 2008, that it was decided to use Google for the search engine exercise instead.   Biographies are sourced throughout the year, for possible inclusion in the list.




Contact information

Name/Staff role:  Rosslyn Lee, School Librarian

Email address:     roslee@ardrossan.n-ayrshire.sch.uk

Telephone:           01294461931


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