Oh yeah! Canada

In January, I blogged/lamented that students had lost their gratitude for learning (if this sounds strange, you have to read about the situation to understand). The awesome news: Simplified Map of CanadaCanada has brought back the ‘Thank You.’ This unit has fallen into place perfectly. For the first time all year I feel like our PLC is contributing with equal enthusiasm. The test aligns smoothly with the learning (or vice versa). Students and teachers enjoy the daily lessons. The modified content has challenged and included students to the perfect extent. This unit is enriched by a relatable unit essential question. “How does WHERE you live influence HOW you live?” The students could provide factual answers before we began (I have evidence of this since I asked), but the quality and detail of the responses increased as we moved through the lessons.  I am reflecting on many of the activities we accomplished this year in class for the Canada Unit so the success can (hopefully) be duplicated next year.

A big shift was the emphasis on Canadian culture. As a PLC we created a massive annotated list of links and resources for cultural tidbits on a variety of topics. YouTube was my best friend for an entire weekend as I searched relentlessly for the perfect video clips, and in the process watched what felt like a hundred, three minute videos. There were some treasure troves with multiple videos, like the background stories from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics or CANADA Explore | Explorez or Statistics Canada. General news segments were useful for concise, visually appealing reports on topics like immigration, changes in citizenship laws, and environmental issues. There were so many great choices; it is a shame that some districts block YouTube. Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 3.03.32 PMTwo non-video resources for Canadian history/cultural elements were Canadian Geographic and Canada’s History for Kids. The second source had a section called ‘History Gets Graphic‘ which are short graphic novels detailing parts of Canadian history. 

Another way I presented visuals was by layering elements with Thinglink. This is a tool I had not used much, but after the success with the GeoTerms and the Cool Buildings of Canada, I will find additional ways to utilize it in the future. The only disadvantage is the lack of display on an iOS device. Since I have a BYOT/iPad Mini mixed classroom, students could only view the information from my laptop in small groups.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 2.52.20 PMThe series of lessons would have been stale if it was not spiced up by culture. The lesson formula roughly included reading a short passage about one of the topics (population, language, climate, architecture, and economic activity) and taking notes. Students had the option of where to take notes. Many of them selected Google Slides. I had created a master template and they just had to make their own copy. Other students preferred paper. There was no reason a student had to be forced to take them one way or another. This is a slightly altered opinion. Up until last year I wanted a paperless classroom, but there is nothing wrong with students knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and a couple choosing to write on paper. An extra tree might perish, but an extra mind is flourishing.

After the notes, they would apply what they learned from the textbook and a Google search to a fictional letter. The premise of the letter was their family moved to Canada and they had to write to a friend or extended family member to tell them about the new location. Canada Letter IntroThe vast majority of the students are loving the creative freedom of the letter and ask if we are going to add to it when they walk in the room. I almost felt bad on days we ran out of time. As a class we had a great conversation about reliable search results on Google and the fact that there is so much learning beyond the textbook and even teacher knowledge. I do not know what type of events take place in [city, province], but there were lists with suggestions of the top things to do with families or newspaper articles about local events. I could point to the population density map for conversations about ecumene in Canada, but can not list the individual town populations. Google can.

Canada Letter PromptsA change from last year is how I presented the letter. Instead of just requiring students to provide information from each of the five categories, I posted questions for them to answer. The first set of questions (A.) to answer made the location more tangible. It was not just a name on a map; it had character or at least a human/physical characteristic. I had students pick a province first then zoom in on either Google Maps or the generic iOS maps to select a city. Last year students got lost by zooming in on the wilderness and not finding any listed civilization. Next year I want to show the maps with themes of amusing town names (from Canadian Geographic) before having the students pick their ‘new home.’ Canada Letter HouseThis year I formally added the house element. Last year finding a dream house for sale was a spontaneous addition for the few students who finished really early. Now it is part of the assignment, and the students are loving this while secretly learning about the style of houses and the cost of living. My favorite is the students who change the backstory of their letter to match the house – like finding a beautiful house with a large greenhouse and making that their parents’ fictional profession. The house adds a conversational point why some small houses seem so expensive or why there are limited options in certain towns. The personalized conversations with one or two students connects the learning with their interests, which only have a positive outcome. I feel that they are harnessing the genuine engagement and inteqrest into deeper understanding. They are asking lots of questions about diverse topics. I hope the understanding translates on the assessment next week.

Another big shift by necessity this year was adapting and modifying the content for students with widely varying learning abilities.  Our planning team brainstormed ways to modify writing in this heavily written unit. Clicker Sentences was suggested. I have loved the implementation of this app. It started with me writing sentences about the content – similar to the notes all the students would be taking themselves. Those sentences were transferred to the app. Now the student can easily access the content and share with classmates. The student has been successful putting together the teacher created sentences, listening to them being read back, and then reading them aloud on their own.  This has been exciting to observe. The only downfall is the price of the app, Clicker Sentences costs $30.99. Do I think it has been worth it? Yes. Would my answer change if I had to pay for the app? Also, yes.

To provide all the students real-world connections to Canada, we read current event articles about Canada. My class frequently uses Newsela for reading current events because the website automatically provides five different reading level of the same article. That means all the students can participate and read the same stories, without struggling or being bored, with the content level. I searched “Canada” and picked a series of stories that I shared through a Google Doc (bit.ly/CanadianNews). The students noticed that most of the stories related to people affecting the environment. This connected back to a prior topic with the Five Themes of Geography and Human-Environment Interaction. I appreciated that I found real articles about topics that were being mentioned in the textbook, like the oil boom in Alberta and the Polar Bears in Canada. Since the students were provided choice with what to read, I did not hear any complaining about having to read, and some students asked for more time to read additional articles.

The last infusion of technology has been a series of websites and apps that have provided review as needed: Tap Quiz World, Quizlet, Zondle, and Canada Memory Matching Game. Before the unit test, I will create a Kahoot review game, because that is a student favorite. Wow, that felt like a long ramble, but I am confident I can duplicate the activities and be successful next year.

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Twitter Turning Point

There was a single moment when I realized that Twitter was no longer the greatest thing to happen in my personal professional growth: I was sitting in the Newbie Lounge at ISTE in 2013. I was not a newbie, but it was the only plug near comfortable seating I could find. While sitting there I overheard a veteran teacher who was new to edtech and trying to understand Twitter. She deserved to be supported for stepping outside her comfort zone, but the Tweets with #ISTE13 in this hour were not representative of learning. Instead, they were inside jokes, sarcastic comments, complaints about the temperature, and a range of other distractors. They were not about learning and connecting with other educators from around the world. It was such a missed opportunity.
I have taken a few breaks from Social Media, but it has not fixed my disappointed feelings. The world continued to spin and I continued to learn. I missed some of the people who supported by struggles or challenged my comfort, but overall there was no sense of loss for my PLN. I thought that this was my personal perspective and issue, but recently I have read other blogs with a similar tone. The three that have captured my attention most are from Bonnie Stewart, Joe Mazza, and Lyn Hilt. Stewart wrote something is rotten in the state of … Twitter. The language and voice captured my attention and really drove home the message. The decline of Twitter can be linked to the decline of a passionate participatory culture. Mazza breaks down the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of current PLNs. This is the post that really helped me formulate my disenchantment into words. He posted some good questions: What makes some educators worthy of the fame and larger audience? How has our online AND offline behavior evolved since we became ‘connected’?  I miss the good old days of 2009 when I joined Twitter. Hilt had a more positive spin on the topic with Why do I need to reinvent my PLN?  But she still points out that most of our PLNs no longer function efficiently. We need to refresh those we follow to find new ideas. Twitter might not be the best platform for developing more meaningful connections. So what are the issues I see with Twitter? Self Promotion, Cliques, Inside Jokes, and Safe Conversations.

AutoTweet#1: Insane Self-Promotion. We should be proud of the things we accomplish and the reflections we blog about. There is no harm in tweeting that. It is the incessant auto tweeting that clogs up Twitter feeds. There is harm in tweeting links to old blog posts every few hours. I also don’t like teacher entrepreneurs who constantly hawk their products they want us purchase or courses they want to convince us to enroll in so they get paid. The same thing goes for blogging and promoting items you create/teach – an occasional tweet is informative, but a barrage takes away from the value of the forum.

#2: Cliques. This was a topic mentioned by Joe Mazza. Initially Twitter was a space where all educators were created newly equal. Everyone had a voice and could contribute to the conversation. However, cliques and social hierarchies have developed. It’s worse than being in middle school, and I would know, since I teach in one. Teachers can get sucked into the social order with the humble brag photo along with a education rock start. I’m guilty of this. To someone trying to create a PLN, this is a visual barrier between those in the circle and those outside. What makes a teacher worthy of thousands of followers? At one point I was accepted into the inner circle of Twitter power teachers, but I don’t think I learned as much. I also was uncomfortable with the relationships that developed within the clique. It seemed acceptable to have virtual flirtatious affairs, which would play out in real life at conferences. This is not role model worthy behavior. There are so many lists of Top <insert number> Teachers on Twitter, but this does not create a valuable PLN. Chasing a number of followers will not create a better PLN either. No one thinks being promiscuous and sleeping with more people will create a better relationship, so why would the number of Twitter followers make the connection better?

#3:  Inside Jokes, Sarcasm, or Snark. This is yet another thing I am guilty of. Also defended with the middle school excuse of ‘we were just joking.’ To someone who is new, these type of joking comments would be confusing and sometimes insulting. Every conference has them. Sometimes they are a self-defense method for dealing with conference proposal rejection. Sometimes they are mocking a failure. Sometimes they are the result of too many free drinks from vendor parties. Many times they are funny, but that does not mean everyone will understand the joke and feel welcome in the space. Edchats also have an abundance of insider jokes and sarcastic comments. Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 9.40.34 PMNormally the group is familiar with each other and the comments help them bond from a distance. However, it prevents people new to the environment from feeling included. When I respond using sarcasm or snark I try to avoid the real chat hashtag. But it still will shape the opinion of me that of my followers have.

 #4: Safe Conversations. This flaw seems out of place. Safe is normally associated with warm, fuzzy, positive feelings. Yet, when it comes to discussions of education, the same conversations being played over-and-over again are safe, boring, and unproductive. You do not try new things from being safe. Have you ever played devil’s advocate in an edchat? It is risky. Immediately you feel like you are being verbally attacked by a mob because you threatened the safety of the group. What if an outsider had a sincere question? How would the chat group react? No one’s classroom is perfect, yet we spend so much time describing the Pinterest versions of our classroom. We don’t seek feedback or suggestions for improvement because that would require admitting a flaw first. I believe it is a ‘we’ thing and not just a ‘me’ thing. When I first joined Twitter it was about gaining knowledge about everything I did not know. I was willing to try new things all the time, but that sometimes resulted in failure, and my PLN helped me back to my feet and gave me advice and confidence to try again. I don’t know exactly when the safety mode kicked in, but it has restricted the new ideas flowing into my classroom.

Contribute PLNSelf-Reflection: Am I a positive member of other teacher’s PLNs? Would I follow myself? (which sounds egotistical and links back to issue #1). I am not ready to deactivate my Twitter account, but I am willing to actively purge those who do not make me a better teacher or global citizen. I pledge to tweet with purpose. This means less re-tweets and more enriching tweets, and by more, I probably mean fewer in number. Take time to reflect on your own Social Media contributions. Would you inspire a new teacher? Is your online behavior a positive role model for students? How are you contributing to your PLN?

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Five Minute Primary Source Lesson

@TeacherToolkit

@TeacherToolkit

Sometimes I feel a slump in my lesson planning creativity. During such an occurrence I saw a tweet from @TeacherToolkit which sparked interest. The title was catchy and so was the visual outline for the 5 Minute Lesson Plan. The website (which I just used as a trial) walked through writing a lesson plan. This isn’t a process I’m unfamiliar with, it’s just something I wanted inspiration with. The prompting questions did their job and prompted deeper planning and exploration of unused resources to teach the lesson.

I started to dig out resources discovered at Edcamps and Conferences from the past. I wanted to bring Primary Source resources into the class. The Smithsonian has a PDF that overviews primary sources and provides suggestions for using them. Edutopia provided an additional 6 recommendations for Primary Sources. Neither one of these were groundbreaking, but they are useful reminders of how many options you have and how easy it is to incorporate primary sources. Now that I felt inspired, I reflected and dug deeper.

My students love looking at maps and photos, and there are an abundant set of primary sources that would appeal to their interests and transition nicely into our unit on the United States and Canada. A perfect example is from DocsTeach with a Map of the United States and Canada in 1783.

National Humanities Center has collections of primary source documents and questions to accompany them. An interesting example for my students would be the poem about life in Pennsilvania (not a typo on my part) from 1692. Obviously I spent more than 5 minutes searching for resources. But the time was worth the payout. I found an entire units worth of interesting primary source documents that would lend authenticity to the discussions we would have in class.

The Library of Congress provides guides for analyzing different types of Primary Sources. For times I integrate historic maps, there is a guide for maps . For the lesson I’m planning next week the one that will best serve is for Analyzing Photographs.

So this might have seemed like a long ramble. The journey resulted in this:  LessonStudent ChartThere were other pieces to the lesson, like the chart for students to record their findings. For the final part of the project, students will submit their guess for where the photograph is and providing supporting evidence why they think that. The answers will be compiled on a Google Form, which will allow us to look at everyone’s answers without the fear of people knowing if you were wrong.

I always have some students who finish early, so they can play the TapQuiz Maps app for Canada or the United States. I will also post additional images of Canada/the United States that they can try to figure out through the same process using the Primary Source Analysis Guides.

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The Case of the Missing ‘Thank You’

said no student everThe beginning of the school year had a unique, almost daily occurrence. A small group of my 7th period students would thank me for another great lesson. It was a great start to the year. I did not realize how motivating it could be to have students say ‘thanks’ for what most people assume is an automatic component of public education. But it was incredibly motivating. I wanted to be a better teacher for them and I self-reflected on every lesson. I can’t take credit for the genuine phenomenon; they started it the first day of school without prompting. I take pride in my lessons and believe they were a good mix of interesting and informative, but if I were a student I do not know that I would go as far as to thank a teacher. I thanked a few teachers after the school year when I realized the real world application of their content, but not for the daily lessons.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Then something changed. I don’t know what or when. This is depressing. I don’t know what caused multiple students to lose their daily joy in learning. Maybe it was my class became too predictable. Maybe it was the stress of receiving numeric grades for the first time. Maybe they felt like they were being ignored while misbehaving students monopolized class time. Maybe they are pre-teens and disenchanted with everything and I shouldn’t take it personally. I just hope it was not something I could have prevented.

There is a bigger issue. I do not know when exactly they stopped saying ‘Thank You.’ I just realized today that I miss it and it has been awhile. When did I lose some of my passion for teaching? I used to make a conscious effort to pay attention to each student, every day. Clearly I have not been doing this or it would have registered that the great students aren’t vocalizing their gratitude for their education anymore.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I made other trivial New Year’s goals, but this is the new one that counts: I want to rediscover my excitement with teaching and make it obvious to the students. Hopefully that will spark a newfound joy in their learning. Ultimately that is more important than most of my content or my state mandated SLO. I might not know when the ‘thanks’ stopped, but it is not too late. Today officially marks the halfway point for the school year, which gives me plenty of time to achieve my goal. For myself, I want to be professionally happy. For my students, I want them to have the joy of learning engrained in them so they do not lose it as they progress through upper grades. Many teachers strive for life long learners; my plan of attack to accomplish that is to start right now.

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Five Themes

The Five Themes of Geography is the first introduction to Geography that the students have. I wanted it to be memorable. I also want to make intentional connections back to it through each unit of the year, so it is important for students to have a solid understanding.

Notes and Study Guides:
We practiced taking Cornell Notes in class, but the success of that is dependent on the student. Even with me modeling it, some students had suspicious gaps in their notes. I created an adaptive version of the notes: it was available for any student who needed it.
I also created two visually unique study guides. The first is like a Five Themes Study Guide, definitions, and examples. It does not sound interesting, but if you cut the bottom stripes up to help study, it looks unique. The second is a Five Themes cootie catcher with four of the five themes, the fifth is on the bottom, but get cut off when you fold up the cootie catcher.
Students have a fairly good understanding of movement, region, and human-environment interaction. The location and place confuse them, not because they are complicated, but because they mix them up.

Instagram:
To make the geography personal and get the students’ attention, I created a class Instagram account (@Geo6HMS). It provides an outlet to showcase the Five Themes through pictures. I’ve had so much fun creating the images. I’m extending the visual ideas into my BYOT Club, our first meeting will be visual design elements on a mobile device. Instead of C.R.A.P. I changed the acronym to C.A.R.P.E. Diem. The ‘Ed’ is EdConnection. With creative projects, it is always important to remind students that they have to tie in the interesting elements back to the learning goal.

Project:

Last year I just asked the students to draw a picture to represent the Themes of Geography. However, this year I wanted to let them run with the project. The time required stretched from one day to three, but I was really impressed with the end results. I gave digital and non-digital options, but did not limit the students or burden them with tons of requirements. All I asked for was a visual representation of the Five Themes. Students created posters, iMovies, Keynotes, Prezis, 3D models, photo stories, and more. Here are some student examples linked and embedded:  FiveThemesSlides from Keynote and a Prezi.

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Edcamp vs Excuses

To set the stage for this post, mentally think about the Beastie Boys song ‘You gotta fight for your right to [PD].’ Except the fight is more of a defensive stance than an attack. Here are some of the excuses that I’ve heard for why teachers do not attend edcamp and my responses to why they are making a mistake.

UNCONFERENCE STIGMA

  • It’s not a real conference. I love this about edcamp. There is no schedule set months ahead of time. Topics that are of importance to people attending on that day set the schedule. There are no vendors hawking their goods and distracting you from learning from other teachers. There is no obligation to sit through sessions that are not valuable to you. The ‘Rule of Two Feet’ encourages you to change sessions if something else would be a better fit. Try walking out of a session at a real conference and see the glares you get. However, after attending edcamps, it feels stifling to be trapped in boring sessions.
  • The state won’t give me credit for attending. Since when do teachers care about the state? It is extremely rare that they [state decision makers] make decisions that are of educational value to students and/or teachers. If the bureaucracy got involved and tried to regulate the unconference experience, it would squelch the spirit and authentic learning. Leave the state out of it and do it for the sake of reigniting the spark in your teaching.

VALUE

  • It’s too far away. Define too far away. People travel for hours to do things they want to do. Most places in the United States have an edcamp within an easy driving distance. Every year more edcamps are added. There have already been 500 edcamps globally. This map shows the current dispersion of edcamps – with a full schedule of upcoming edcamps on the edcamp wiki. If there is not one near you, you could always join with other passionate teachers to organize your own. The wiki also provides guides for organizers. Edcamp Map
  • My district won’t pay for me to attend. True, but you also will not pay to attend. Edcamps by definition are free. We did not get into teaching for the big paychecks, so I’m not sure where the expectation of making money comes from.
  • What’s in it for me? I suppose if you have to feel like it is “worth your time,” the swag and chances to win sponsor raffles are pretty exciting. To some people they might just be pens, highlighters, and post-it notes, but to teachers, the supplies are cute ‘thank you’ notes from companies that support education. I’ve been lucky and earned some great tools for my classroom, like a subscription to Flocabulary. Many edcamps also have food, so you can have great, informal, educational discussions over yummy food and coffee. edcamp nepa sponsors

PRESENTATIONS

  • I don’t want to present. The presentation dilemma is a non-issue. People are not supposed to present at edcamp anyway; you sign up to facilitate a discussion. Some people may have more expertise and contribute more, but you don’t spend hours ahead of time prepping for edcamp. Instead of preparing a presentation, prepare a few questions that you want answered about something education related. During the course of the day, make the effort to ask the questions in a relevant session. Ten minds combined are more powerful than a single mind, which is a benefit of crowdsourcing.
  • edcamp sessionsNothing will interest me. This is your own fault. You either do not want to propose a topic or you are so disenchanted with teaching that nothing can interest you. Edcamps sessions are not approved by a panel of organizers; edcamp sessions are written on post-it notes (or a similar strategy) by the people who are attending that day. The educational topic potential is endless. So think of something, anything, that interests you, and find another interested person to have that dialogue or healthy debate.
  • I don’t like technology. This has a two pronged response. See above for the first part. Maybe the reason you don’t like technology is you have been overwhelmed by mandatory trainings in your district. When the forced element is removed, and you have choice, it is easier to see positives. Also, sessions might not focus on technology but general best practice or skills. Often teachers share a technology tool they use to accomplish that. When framed in that light instead of focusing on the tool (like PowerPoint part VI), it is easier to envision how it could apply to your classroom.

ETC

  • It’s on a Saturday. This is the perfect day of the week. It means I do not have to write extensive substitute plans because I will not be missing school. It gives me a day to process all of the ideas and strategies, and figure out the logistics of the activities, yet I can still go into the classroom on Monday and apply the best of what I learned. What do you do over the weekend that actually makes you excited for a Monday?
  • edcamp peopleI won’t know anyone. Why is this a bad thing? Most districts have the same discussions over-and-over. Get out of the conversation rut by hearing fresh new ideas. It gives you the chance to expand your PLN; a great example of this is Twitter walls of the attendees (we did this last year at EdcampHBG, and now I’ve seen lots of other examples). Learning is social. People who decide to attend edcamp on their own time tend to be the friendliest. Everyone is welcoming. There is not the tension of some state conferences where the upper echelon takes offense to the enlightened newcomers who encroach on their territory. Everyone is there to learn, not to maintain social stratification.

Honestly, I might be slightly biased. I have attended 12 edcamps.  I also help organize Edcamp Harrisburg. I generally exhibit high levels of #edcamplove. So I might be biased, but that does not mean I am not also correct. Just like most things in life, you will get out of an edcamp opportunity what you put into it. So don’t make excuses why you shouldn’t attend edcamp, instead make plans to attend a local, teacher organized, day of professional development. Edcamp Harrisburg 2014 Invite

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Brainstorms for Geography

Summer has a way of inspiring great ideas because there is no pressure to write lesson plans. These are some of my lesson brainstorms for teaching different parts of the geography curriculum that I do not want to forget.

  • Absolute Location pre-teaching activity: buy a cheap used puzzle of medium difficulty. On back label pieces based on row and column (1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B, 2C, etc). Don’t tell students about system on the back. In a class period, have each small group race to put the puzzle together the fastest. The following day debrief as a class. What was challenging? What made solving the puzzle easier? Puzzle for Absolute LocationLesson learned. I bought a 500 piece puzzle at the Salvation Army, after spending a lot of time putting it together, I found out I am missing 2 pieces and have an extra piece. For future activities, 100 pieces would accomplish the same goal with a lot less labeling necessary. Your hand will thank you. 
  • Curriculet for Current Events and News Articles: I know ELA teachers who love using Curriculet. However, it was not until this summer that I realized it could be perfect for current events as well. Many news stories need additional images, explanations, history, maps, definitions, biographies, info graphics, etc to make them comprehensible to students (and most adults). Big news stories normally have these additional features, but they are not worded for students. I can customize the additional media and provide checks for comprehension all on Curriculet. I wrote a lesson flow using multiple technology and traditional tools for Creating Current Event Comprehension on Graphite. My favorite tool last year will continue to be the weekly introduction to current events: Flocabulary’s Week in Rap. Flocabulary was loved by students and the teacher. One addition I plan on making is adding Newsela to the Current Event lesson.
  • Newsela for Current Events: This website automatically picks a few news story a day to publish. The stories are leveled so that students or the teacher can select the level of difficulty of the reading passage. All students can get the same background story, but with personalized Lexile level. The 4 question reading quiz also changes based on the level. The questions are based on skills from the ELA Common Core standards. If a teacher pays for the pro version, there are many tracking options. Even without the pro version, I think this will be a useful resource.
  • Math behind population density: GSpreadsheet PopDensity
  • I want to bring more intentional cross-curriculuar lessons into my class. Calculating population density is the perfect example. I wrote out a lesson flow using technology on Graphite for Population Explosion: Understanding Population Density. There is a detailed outline, process, rationale, and links to the resources.
  • Publish iBook about Geography of our city: This might be overly ambitious; however, I am up for the challenge. I am going to crowd source writing an iBook about the Geography of our city. The work will be done through shared Google Drive folders, with everything copied into iBooks Author. It would be written like a tourist guide, but emphasize elements of geography, like the Five Themes of Geography or Absolute and Relative Location. All the images would either be photos or illustrations created by the students.
  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.26.43 AMPost Card with a fact learned while on vacation: Enforce the rule that anyone who is absent from class because they go on a trip, must bring back a postcard with a fact relating to geography or history. The easiest way to do this is provide an example of a human or physical characteristic of place. They will be hung around the room with clothes pins. I did this last year and the students enjoyed looking at what people brought back. I just forgot to require it of everyone.
  • Map our clothing: where is everything we are wearing from? Add pins to a Google Map. Use this to discuss the theme of movement. How did our clothes go from somewhere in the world to us wearing them? We can use a different color pin for the different clothing objects; this would allow us to see patterns between shoes and shirts and pants, etc.
  • Everything National Geographic: I have underutilized everything they have to offer, especially in relation to thematic maps on the Map Maker Interactive. I was inspired last summer at ISTE during a session from National Geographic, I was just overwhelmed this year and forgot some of the great resources. I rediscovered them over the summer.
  • Pinterest inspirations for crafts using old maps and globes: use chalkboard paint on an old globe, create a lamp shade with an old map, cut out hearts of maps of places you love an create a poster.
  • Maps, Maps, Maps. Maps are the heart of all the work we do in geography class. Students who struggle to read a map at the beginning of the year struggle all year. I need more problem solving practice activities with map reading. In my travels this year, I have stopped at many welcome centers and picked up a variety of maps for local states. These are such a great free resource.
  • Map Scavenger Hunt: Students will work with a partner and be given a random map. Groups will not have the same maps. We will use old bingo markers to highlight the places they find. Most of the items will be based on the Map Key, but it will also require observation and attention to detail. Possible items for them to look for: rivers, mountains, lakes, airports, turnpikes, tunnels, roads that cross state lines, museum, National Parks, state parks, historic site, welcome center, hiking trail, railroad, capital, big cities, small cities, a city with a man’s name, a city with a woman’s name, a city with an animal in the name, a city with a cardinal direction in the name, funniest city name, longest city name, etc.
  • Map Puzzle: I am going to take one of the free political maps I picked up during my travel and laminate the map. After it is laminated, I am going to cut it into 30 equally sized squares. As a challenge, I am going to remove the map grid. Posted around the room will be the List of Towns with coordinates. They will have to work as a class to piece it together based on the relative locations of their towns/cities.
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