Monday, August 31, 2009

Maps and Bloom's Taxonomy

Do you remember those big, heavy, roll-up maps that perched on the top of what used to be the blackboard? They were gorgeous, but, alas, very infrequently used.

One of my best memories from school involves those maps and a fearless, forward-thinking teacher. One day in sixth grade, Ms. Rigney pulled down every big map in the room, divided us up into groups, told us to come up to a map, look closely at each, discuss, and be prepared to report on it fully to the class. (She gave us a Bloom's Taxonomy-inspired list of questions as a guide.)

We grabbed our notebooks and gathered in front of our group's appointed map. When the principal looked in, she was appalled. (Imagine students in groups! Moving around! Talking to classmates!) Fortunately, the principal stayed for our reports. When it was over, even she had to admit that Ms. Rigney's crazy maps and groups idea produced great results. Score one for active learning.

The old, roll-up maps are gone now, and even good wall maps are hard to come by. But online sources provide good maps for online study and downloading and printing.

For this year's map activities, go to National Geographic MapMachine. Bookmark and print all you need for student projects (you can use Ms. Rigney's Bloom's Taxonomy idea). Take a look through National Geographic's great Xpeditions lesson plans for ideas about including map study in your classroom.

And don't forget to print wall maps of the regions you'll be studying. They're all free!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


First global image to share with students and discuss this year!

Okay, I'm partial. But isn't this Earth at Night great? The image is a composite of hundreds of photos of the earth at night taken from space by satellites. The lights show us areas of dense population and industrialization--cities and some huge urban swaths like our East Coast "BosWash" (from Boston to Washington, D.C.). You can click on the image in the link to make it bigger.

Put it up and ask students just to look at it for few minutes. What's their first response? (Might be "wow, some places are really lit up and others are really dark!") Ask them if they see any patterns in the light and dark areas. How about the coasts and rivers, where transportation is easier than, say, in the Himalayas (the dark area that sudden appears in the northeast of the Asian subcontinent). Can they find the Nile? The Sahara Desert? The Amazon rainforest? Why are these areas light or dark?

So much to see and discuss. Give it a try. I see some more every time I look. What do you and your students see?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Gray's Creek Elementary School!

There's a new elementary school opening this year. The administration and teachers are meeting to make plans--brand new, never done before, let's-think-about-what's-most-important plans.

A new beginning gives us the chance to revisit our assumptions and our expectations. It's a difficult process, but it's the surest sign of life and growth.

We're all facing a brand new school year. Even if you're teaching in a school with a long, proud history, take this chance to think about what's most important. Plan to try something you've never done before.

I wish you the very best in the brand-new school year!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Teaching Globally/Teaching from the Heart

What inspires you to teach globally?

Many of us point to a trip abroad, or the sudden realization that the world is wider than our county, or the new neighbors who brought fresh ideas and ways of living. All these are powerful experiences that open our minds and our lives to the world.

Sometimes it's a book that sows the seed. When I was four years old, my mother read me what I called a "chapter by chapter" book that never has left me. The title was (and is) The Ship That Flew.

Hilda Lewis tells the story of four children who happen upon an extraordinary magic ship that can take them anywhere in the world. And, they later discover, it can take them to other times, as well. Curious about the pyramids? Have a report to write on the Norman Conquest? They explore the place and time firsthand. Every one of their travels in the magic ship is not only a adventure, but an education.

I can't tell you how deeply it touched me, at first reading and at every reading that followed (and there were a lot of them!). What a great way to learn!

I knew by the time I started school that a magic ship was just make-believe. But I had some teachers who could rustle up some pretty impressive magic of their own. With their enthusiasm and knowledge, it seemed that we were flying magically to the places and times we were learning about, just like in The Ship that Flew.

There is some memory, some beautiful moment, that impels you to teach about the world, no matter how challenging it may be at times. At the end of this summer, before school begins, look into your heart for what inspires you as a global teacher. This year, and every year, let it help you and your students fly.