On Tuesday my kids worked with maps for the first time with me. Map work is an integral part of this particular curriculum. In fact, the parents want the kids to be able to create a detailed map of the world from scratch by the end of the year (every country, every mountain range, etc) so this was my chance to see in general what they already knew and how comfortable they were or were not with maps.
When we finished our topic of the week discussion, they got into pairs for the map. Since this was just a warm-up/intro activity, they labeled each ocean and continent, the Prime Meridian and equator, Canada, America, Mexico, India, and Russia, and just for fun penguins and polar bears. Being in pairs, they were able to each suggest some answers in the “privacy” of their pairs, and when some inevitably had disagreements I was amazed at how they took it upon themselves to figure out who was right and who was wrong. A few asked me for a hint or help, but mostly they used their resources and talked the correct answer out amongst themselves. This gave each pair the confidence they needed for the whole class part of the activity.
When they were done, (and this was the first time I did this and it was a HUGE hit so I’ll definitely be doing it again), they took turns coming up to the board and labeling the identical (but big) map I had on the projector. Since they knew their answers were correct (I was roaming the room while they were working and pointed out some labels they should rethink while they were still in their pairs), they knew they would be able to contribute to the big class map without fear or embarrassment of being wrong.
As each student came to the board to label one part of the map, they also said one thing they know about that item and one question they had about it (I’ll answer each question for the at the start of class this week). One of the questions sparked a really interesting conversation: “Since the Arctic and Antarctica are both cold, icy, and have snow, why don’t polar bears, penguins, Inuits live in both places?”
One pair went extremely above and beyond, theirs is the map in the picture above (names covered of course). It was interesting to see which kids were more than content to do the bare minimum, and which ones got excited about the material and kept going on their own beyond the instructions. I’m curious to see if that will be the case all year, or if it was the type of assignment, or simply the mood the kids were in. We’ll see what they do when they get their exploration of the America’s map next week.
As other teacher-blogger friends have mentioned in their posts, one of the many benefits of kids working in pairs is that it helps build their confidence for when it’s time to contribute and participate as a whole class. This time around I let them choose their pairs. At times going forward I will choose for them, and they will have to figure out how to work with a variety of personalities since that’s what the real world is like.