Discover Modern-Day Exploration

Use an adaptation of the cubing technique to take a multi-perspective look at exploration.

By Alicia Johnson


large cube

“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.” - Ansel Adams

I found this to be true with this small computer lab assignment designed for the end of our study of exploration literature. As we have all learned through our work with young people, if we can make connections between what we are talking about in class and the real world, the lesson has more relevance to our learners. I created this activity for a course I was taking on differentiation in the classroom. It was so enjoyable to create, that I decided to use it in some of my English classes. I found it equally enjoyable to see how engaged my eleventh graders were throughout the two-day computer lab.


The assignment is an adaptation of a cubing technique designed to create a six-sided (like the sides of a cube) look at one piece of subject matter. I adapted it because true cubing only allows for five to six minutes of focus on each of the six different research perspectives of a particular subject. I wanted the focused observations to take longer than five or six minutes each. The following is a list of the six ways the cubing technique directs students to look at a single subject:

  • Describe It: Examine the topic/subject closely.
  • Compare It: Is the topic similar or different to something else?
  • Associate It: Does your topic remind you of something or someone else?
  • Analyze It: Identify the important parts of the subject.  How can it be broken down?
  • Apply It: How is this subject/topic used?  What is its purpose?
  • Argue It: Argue for or against your topic and be able to explain your reasoning.

Getting Started

We were winding down our exploration literature unit and I had a chance to use our computer lab for only two days. If you are like me, when I get a chance to get into the computer lab, I take it! So even though I did not have a lot of time, this assignment provided for a quick and close look at some modern exploration subjects and was a perfect way to wrap things up in the unit.  I presented my class with this handout. (With younger students you could put each of the questioning techniques on each side of a paper cube for fun). I allowed them to work on their own or with a partner. Each group/person had to choose one of the six research options to complete. 

I created a scoring rubric so they would know how I would assess their work and to help me to have a streamlined approach to that assessment.

What I Discovered

I found my class to be engaged from the beginning to the end of the lab. I noticed that they looked through many of the choices first and had a hard time deciding because they wanted to research more than one topic. Their presentations were engaging, showed high interest in their subject matter, and the ones that were presented to the class held the attention of their classmates throughout. The only perspective that I did not require a class presentation for was the compare perspective because the students that completed this, did so with personal information about difficult situations from their own lives and I did not want to require them to publically share that information.

Common Core Standards Connections

Reading: Informational Text

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

More Lesson Ideas:

Navigating with Explorers

This cooperative group project incorporates a multimedia approach to research early exploration in America. Your elementary school class will gain insight into the subject matter as well as a lesson in paraphrasing. The lesson enlists the help of your instructional technologist to go over online search procedures and bibliography entries. It is a great lesson to cover subject matter and enhance procedural skills.

Designing Tools for Ocean Exploration

High school science class ocean research is the focus of this resource. The hands-on nature of the lesson from the National Oceanic and Exploration Association (NOAA) website will provide an engaging opportunity to dive further into the science of ocean exploration. Step-by-step procedures, materials lists, vocabulary, and extension exercises are all part of this exercise that looks into the tools and technology used in ocean exploration.

The Age of Exploration

A helpful resource which has the Word documents and assessment scoring rubric provided. It also has a detailed procedure explanation of this computer lab project. Its focus is individual explorers that played a part in the Age of Exploration and using technology to research and report. The use of maps, charts, and interactive websites will engage your class in a way that the textbook may not.

English Guide

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Alicia Johnson