Saturday, December 1, 2012

Joy in my Heart!

Something that brings a little joy to my heart has been happening in my classroom.  My students and I were talking about the Viking exploration of the new world, and it became apparent to me that they had little understanding of what these trips meant, in terms of distance and effort.  First we looked at a large pull-down map so that they could have some sense of travel from Scandinavian countries to Iceland to Greenland and then to Canada.  Still, they had more questions.  Up came Google Earth.  In answer to one student's question, I went west around the United States, across the Pacific Ocean to Asia.  When I turned back around, the look on some students' faces was priceless.  "The Pacific is HUGE!" they exclaimed.  "No wonder Amelia Earhart couldn't find Howland Island.  Where is it?"  That led to a close-up of the tiny island she had been looking for (we'd just finished reading about her in our Reading anthology.)

  "Do you want to learn more about countries and where they're located?" I asked.  The answer was pretty clear.  So, yesterday, we spent some time in the computer lab with a large, blank world maps and Google Earth.  The goal was to enter as many European countries onto their map as they could, since that's where our Social Studies lessons are heading.

   Some students had trouble translating what was in front of them on their computer screen to what was on paper, but once they got started, they did a great job.  Later, they looked for their homes, and were so excited to see the street levels for familiar places.  In the end, I let them play around on the site, and before I knew it, some of them were touring the White House, some were in Europe, and a couple were in outer space.

   Leaving the computer lab that day was a sad moment for many of them.  But I reassured them that we'd spend lots more time exploring the world in the days ahead.  Nothing warms my heart more than seeing kids get excited to learn more about the world around them!



   And so I've updated an old gem that I used several years ago, but haven't used since.  I developed it as a way to review measures of central tendency with students, but this time, I think I'll use it to do that and to extend their understanding about the world around them.  Maybe it will even lead to further reading and writing about another country.

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