Top 5 Search Engine Hacks for Teachers

Search engines are simple but powerful.  Most teachers just type in a question and begin to scroll for the best match. But did you know there are ways to ask better questions and filter your queries?

ThinkFives identified these Top 5 tips that can help teachers search more quickly and more efficiently using Google Chrome, Edge, Safari or any other search engine. And the best thing about all of these is that they’re simple to use and can benefit you for years to come.

Search Using Phrases

Search Using Phrases

Search engines are very flexible. They know you may not find what you want by searching only a single word or phrase. Thus, they let you search using phrases and questions. Google calls these “long-tail” keywords and they can deliver much more targeted search results.

By using this tip, you can narrow down your search to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Here are some examples:

Teacher Examples:

What is the best kindergarten assessment tool for teachers?

  • In this case, Google is searching for three things: assessment, kindergarten, and teachers.
  • The result it brings up in the featured box is “ESGI” (as we would expect) and related questions that “People also ask.”
  • Using at least three to five words in a search is a great way to get better results.
Use Quotes for an Exact Match

Use Quotes for an Exact Match

Do you have a specific idea of what you’re searching for? Then simply put that word or phrase in quotes.  Unlike “air quotes”, these actually do something.

When you put your search parameters in quotes, it tells the search engine to search for the whole phrase exactly as entered. Without quotes, the search engine will provide sites with all of the words in perhaps a different order or just some of the words.

Teacher Examples:

Search for terms like these:

  • “The Cat in the Hat”
  • “Kindergarten Smorgasbord”
  • “Sunshine State Standards”
Use Hyphens to Exclude Words

Use Hyphens to Exclude Words

Sometimes you may find yourself searching for a word or phrase that has multiple meanings such as mustang horses. When you Google search for mustang, you may get results for both the animal and the car made by Ford. If you want to eliminate responses about the car, use the hyphen, and the engine will ignore content with cars and just return those about horses.

Teacher Examples:

  • School -fish (unless you’re a marine biologist in school)
  • Virus -software (for health class)
  • Airpods -ebay (if you’re looking for new ones)
Use Asterisks as Wildcards

Use Asterisks as Wildcards

Do you ever remember part of a book name, song or title?  With an asterisk wildcard, you can get a search result with only a partial search term. Here’s how it works.

When you use an asterisk in a search term, it will leave a placeholder that may be automatically filled by the search engine later. You simple put an “*” where you don’t know the word.

Teacher Examples:

  • Where The * Grows (will remind us it’s a red fern)
  • A * by any other name (will return sites on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)
  • Come * right now * me (will return the lyrics to the Beatles song, Come Together)
Try Shortcuts

Try Shortcuts

Google and other search engines have a lot of other handy shortcuts teachers can use. Here are just a few of the ones that we suggest you try.

  • Find the Weather: Enter Weather *zip code* and this will show you the weather in the given zip code. You can also use town and city names instead of area codes, but it may not be as accurate if there are multiple area codes in the city.
  • Do Math: Your search engine can be a simple calculator for you.  You forgot the order of operations? Try 3+2*4.   It knows it’s 11 and not 20.  It can even factor 2x+3=9 for example.
  • Get Definitions: Enter Define: *word* – This will display the definition of a word.  You can even type in Synonym *word* too.
  • Find the Time Anywhere: Enter Time *place* – This will display the time in whatever place you enter.  It’s great when trying to connect with people in other countries (or Arizona).
  • Convert Money: Need to convert money or metric units because the rest of the world doesn’t speak American?  No problem. Entering 10 miles to km will show you how many kilometers are in 10 miles and USD to British Pound Sterling will convert a US dollar to British pounds.

What Tips Do You Have for Better Searching?


  1. I always search with phrases. I haven’t tried using quotes, but I’m definitely gonna give that a try!

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