Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teaching Geography

I knew schlepping home all those atlases from library sales would pay off, eventually. Sure, I cursed lugging them back to the car at the time, but as I find myself teaching the current events in North Africa and the Middle East, they certainly are helpful.

Danny finally mastered filling in the blank map of the African continent-a major accomplishment. Sounds more difficult than it was. Obviously, working current world events into a social studies hour helps, but so does tracing paper. I swear, that's my great teaching tool-tracing paper.

Each week, I assign Danny a country, continent, or geographic area I plan to test him on. I give him tracing paper, and the assorted atlases to select from. When the assigned location has been traced, he colours it with watercolours, or couloured pencils. We then mount it on bristol board, cut it out, and there you have it- a puzzle. Between the tracing, labeling, colouring, gluing, cutting and re-connecting, the map is memorised, and the spelling of place names is learned as a bonus.The completed puzzles are stored in envelopes for future use.

I also find blank maps helpful, once Danny has a pretty good idea what belongs where. He can study for his weekly test by doing practise runs on the blank maps and comparing them to the atlas for accuracy. I'm not devoting an absurd amount of time to this-about 30 minutes a day as part of social studies/history. I had only planned to do an atlas of the Classical world this semester, but Danny had most of the islands in the Cyclades memorised in the first two weeks, and I was caught off-guard with nothing else in the lesson plan. I suppose that's one of the homeschooling benefits-being able to adapt curriculum as needed.

I'm glad Danny is excited about mapping Asia, because I'm certainly not looking forward to it. I'll just think of it as some sort of cosmic payback for taking an incomplete in Asian history class in 1985. I remember sitting down, looking at a blank map on the test and thinking there was no way I'd pass, so I might as well leave-and I did. I handed in a blank test, walked out and never went back. Inexplicably, they still let me into a graduate history programme-go figure. While I can't say my life has been worse for not being able to locate the Philippines on a map (OK, I could probably do that-I'm exaggerating) it would be satisfying to be able to complete a map that a six year old can do with ease. I live in terror that someday, he's going to realise what a complete idiot his mother is, and be furious we didn't spring for private school (or at least, a qualified tutor). Worse, he might read these posts and find out I am unable to punctuate. Maybe I'll get a nice edition of Strunk and White for Mother's Day-that would be thoughtful...and heartbreaking.

Tracing paper-trust me on this one.


Raymond said...

I love/hate that Danny already has a waaay better education than I.

Goody said...

You must have educated yourself, as you're quite intelligent.

Rarely, do I meet people that feel they learned anything in school.