A great online resource, We Are Teachers, often posts questions for the general community to assist our colleagues. With Common Core, NCLB and other initiatives, we need to get creative and push our students to think more.
Here’s the question posed on their site and my suggestion. Do you have a good idea? Share your comments!
Question: How can I hold my students accountable for reading our novel?
Answer: In this electronic age, kids using online resources is inevitable; however, I say push them beyond the facts to rethink the facts. Using the book details to connect to other things…keeping dead authors and dusty books fresh is important to students. This helps them see purpose. If we pick on ol’ Tom Sawyer, then we might assign an internet article on grave robbers, and then have them read that chapter. Perhaps we tie geographic elements to map out the story. If you have to make a map of where Tom goes and how they’re connected…you need to understand what happens and more. Pick a funky word deep in the chapter (a different one for each class) and have them use it all day. When I taught, 7th grade I used to do something different with each chapter to keep the kids guessing. Asking open ended questions, gives much more interesting answers and pushes students to THINK, THINK, THINK.
These two concepts might not be considered close cousins at first glance but surprisingly they have quite a bit in common, making GIS an excellent tool for telling and analyzing stories. A few years ago I shared this concept at the Esri Education International Users Conference. Given the improvements in online mapping and the uptake of story maps, I thought a reprise of this concept was in order.
So…most US literature classes do a nice job of presenting the short story and its anatomy, pictured here. Some of my favorites from William Faulkner, O. Henry, W. W. Jacobs or Edgar Allen Poe are staples of the classroom and give easy ways to teach the anatomy and begin to understand problems and how we might craft and retell our own stories more efficiently and elegantly.
Many students have difficulty relating to these stories and cannot fathom creating their own. Tools like GIS give those students ideas and wings to be creative and still present compelling facts. Visualizing this concept (see below) is powerful for student uptake.
I believe that this notion of connecting ideas that we already teach with 21st Century tools will give our students skills, experiences and simply…give them something to talk about when they are stuck.
This also gives some great opportunities to integrate Common Core Reading Standards with GIS. (I’m presenting about this in July at the Esri Conference.)
Also check out what Sugata Mitra has to say about school and learning in TED talks. My favorite quote from his talk…“It’s not about making learning happen. It’s about letting it happen.”
Here’s hoping that you spend your summer letting learning ideas happen as you prepare for the next year’s adventure!
Feel free to share your cool thoughts and ideas too!
Thanks to a recent email from a friend who knows I love cool and quirky facts, I found yet more…cool and quirky facts from the fun folks at Mental Floss. Some of these could be excellent fun as we approach the end of another school year.
Authors and DIDJAKNOW?
Authors and Their Typewriters
I’m thinking this is a great way to talk about the creative process and the tools you use. I still love writing ideas down in a small notebook, even though I’m a self-proclaimed techno-geek.
Now these are just fun things that make you say, “Hmmmm.”
Thoreau….yoga master…REALLY?!? Apparently, yes! http://mentalfloss.com/article/50408/henry-david-thoreau-yoga-master
Making Up Words?
According to my students, I’m famous for this skill. They named my language “Duke-ish.” Ol’ Sir Isaac Newton himself invented his own language. That’s not bad company! http://mentalfloss.com/article/50461/language-isaac-newton-invented
And if you want to be proper, here’s a spelling and grammar video for you. http://mentalfloss.com/article/50485/38-common-spelling-and-grammar-errors
Here’s a stack of books that will cost a little more than those you find at the yard sale! http://mentalfloss.com/article/50220/8-rare-books-cost-fortune
Happy GIS DAY!
Geography is never discipline-specific! Even a theme like “fresh water” should not be narrowed just to the science community. Embrace the cross-curricular ties that exist within your curriculum. You don’t have to teach something new, just teach what you already do in a different way. This type of integration has great powers to teach your students to think, a skill we often expect rather than teach. Before you decide I’m crazy and reaching for my magic wand, let’s explore the possibilities. Let’s analyze how studying water can connect with all four core curricular areas. I have a real-world…already tried it…works great with real kids… example!
Here’s what happened…I was teaching 7th grade English on a middle school team of four teachers. One afternoon we’re discussing upcoming classroom content. As the math teacher starts sharing about her water project, the science teacher chimes in, “Hey, I could move things around and do pH studies then. We can test their home water and compare with school water.” Not to be left out, the social studies teacher and I start thinking too. In short fashion, we created a team-wide water unit. The results were fantastic. Our students could see the connections across the curriculum, and it prompted them to think about similar connections in the future. This collaboration led to many other collaborative projects among the four subjects. The proof was in the test scores at the end of the year!
Math: statistics of home water use
Students collected data in their homes for a week on water usage. Then they used spreadsheet software to organize and calculate statistics. Then the data was merged with the science data to be analyzed in GIS software.
Students collected samples of water around the school and from their homes. They analyzed the water samples and drew conclusions. Then the data was merged with the math data to be analyzed in GIS software (more on this below).
English: water art and literature
I had a collection of old calendar art. I pulled every picture that had water in the art. Students had to answer a series of questions about the art. Keeping within the confines of my school’s literature texts, students read “The Wreck of the Hesperus” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and “Hurricanes” by Patricia Lauber. Then students had to relate the text to the art. Which piece of art best illuminates these selections? Explain.
What if you don’t have water literature in your curriculum or available art? If you don’t have art on hand, utilize a resource like the Smithsonian. Their art collection online is extensive! (http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search) Just search by keyword “water.”
This lesson gives context to Walden Pond along with other English Language Arts topics: (lessons in arclessons). It’s part of a great educational resource by GIS leader Esri, the Education Community at Esri: http://edcommunity.esri.com.
Articles on water related to literature:
Social Studies: how water affects communities around the globe
Geography and GIS: visualizing our water resources
Students took the collected data from math and science class and merged it with census and zip-code data. Then they performed analysis to determine where the best water was. What factors might influence water quality? You could perform similar activities with some pre-crafted lesson plans at the National Center for Rural STEM Education Outreach-Geospatial Technology (http://www.isat.jmu.edu/stem/curriculum.html) – drinking water, aquifers and watersheds are just a few of the 14 lesson collection. Whether you use a Mac or PC, AEJEE, My World GIS or ArcGIS 9, you can use these activities! Another good online resource is National Atlas MapMaker (http://www.nationalatlas.gov). Quick and easy internet mapping on any data that they keep at the National Atlas.
Remember to teach cross-curricular topics to your students with geography! Use technology whenever it’s possible…it’s a language today’s teenagers understand well. Students who are connected to their content in a purposeful way are more successful. Help them discover that their world is connected in many ways.
Do you remember that song? My students just look at me like I’m crazy if I start singing it. I was thinking about the world of the song’s creator vs. today’s world. What elements of geography can we examine through the poem? Where did the grandparents of this folks song live?
In case you have no idea what song I’m referring to, here’s a couple of links to jog your memory.
So let’s think… ( I know, alert the media!)
The poem was written in 1844. What did the US look like at the time?
This writer was passionate about ending slavery. What did slavery look like at that time? Here’s what Mark Twain’s world looked like. This is an informative, interactive map. http://atlas.lib.niu.edu/Website/twain/viewer.htm
The Virginia Experiment GIS Projects are excellent if you’d like to explore various history related topics:
You could create your own GIS map to look at agriculture, precipitation, forests and rivers! You can use a full GIS program like ArcGIS or a virtual globe such as ArcGIS Explorer. (These maps are available online at www.barbareeduke.com/downloads/downloads.htm)
So based on your explorations, where was grandmother’s house? Where is your grandmother’s house and how do you get there? What would your song lyrics be?
Think about Thanksgiving from a new perspective!