In the primary grades, maps are useful tools to help the young reader put stories into perspective and develop a sense of place. Place and space are important in describing the setting of a book. Sometimes the author may not include a map, but the words convey a mental image that can easily be translated into a map—and even the illustrations could be used to teach geographic skills.
Ask any teacher in any discipline at any grade level and they will tell you that literacy is one of their biggest concerns and challenges. What they mean by “literacy” can vary considerably, but generally we can take it to mean successful interpretation of the signs, symbols, and meanings someone else is trying to communicate. Literacy is often used to describe deciphering texts. In a child’s early years, basic phonics is the most common form of literacy, and as students get older, literacy comes to mean understanding the written word in all its variations.
Many students have trouble understanding the geographic context of United States history even though they can often relate the themes to their lives. When teachers move to world geography, the problem of relating to the content is compounded many times over. Students rarely have the background knowledge or geographic literacy to understand where things happened in the past. Thus, making the connection between distant places and history to modern society and their own lives can be very difficult.
While globalization has been a relevant topic for years now, it's not actually a new concept! Globalization occurred in the ancient, medieval, early modern, and industrial ages. Providing students with a solid understanding of modern globalization in comparison to historical examples makes the past relevant and clarifies current events.
Think back to a moment when you as a student sat in a social studies class and struggled to spit out a memorized date of an important event your teacher said would be integral to remember. Were those moments as dreadful for you as they were for me?
Mental maps are representations of what a person “knows” about a place. This knowledge comes from first-hand experience and impressions of places from family, friends, school, the wider culture, and various forms of media. Mental maps blend objective information, subjective impressions and opinions. In the classroom, mental mapping helps students understand how individuals visualize the world in both similar and different ways.
Are you searching for ways to make your social studies lessons relate to the lives of your students? Make memorable connections between national trends in history, economics, culture, politics, and geography with these place-based primary sources.
My last post was about quality novels to teach in the American history classroom. I would like to follow it up with some books teachers can include in their geography and civics class. In Alabama, we devote a semester each to geography and civics during the seventh grade. Often, it can seem that there is not enough time to fit in everything that we need to cover during that time frame. However, the following books are short enough to read in these classes, but “pack a punch” of information.