Research skills using the Guinness Book of World Records


Here is an exciting way to introduce / refresh researching skills with 4th graders in the library: use the Guinness Book of World Records!

There are a slew of skills can be taught with this one resource: identifying key words, working with ABC order, using an index (including hanging indexes), reading headlines and captions, skimming text for keywords, paraphrasing, and citing a source.

All that’s needed is a great question that works with the content of the book.  In our building, Spirit Week provides the springboard.  Each fall, when our school celebrates Crazy Hair Day during Spirit Week, the 4th graders research a Crazy Hair Fact using the GBoWR.

This is the note-taking template students use.  Download the PDF!


I model how to use Guinness  as a source of information.  As a whole group, we:

  • come up with the key word to research (Crazy? Hair?  what should we look up?)
  • use the index and, if needed, the hanging index (a concept that boggles most of them) to find the necessary page
  • read bold headlines and / or captions
  • skim lots of text for a key word (in this case, hair)
  • paraphrase information
  • cite our source

After the lesson, students choose to either work individually or with a partner to research a fact of their own.  Choosing partners can be dramatic at best, so I’ll call students in a not-so-random way to either (A) choose a partner or (B) choose to work independently (because we know exactly who needs to choose first, who needs extra support, who needs to have an option to work alone, etc).

A few notes:

  1. Before the lesson, check each index to be sure the keyword HAIR appears!
  2. Inform students that the fact must be appropriate for school!
  3. Make sure there are copies for each pair of students.  Our library has built up quite a collection of the Guinness Book – enough so students can choose to either work with a partner or independently.  Before that, copies were borrowed from the public library.

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