This post comes to us from the Library of Congress Teacher in Residence, Earnestine Sweeting.
Maps can help students make meaningful interdisciplinary connections with major themes, concepts and ideas. My colleagues and I developed an integrated unit of study on the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 for fourth grade. We selected maps of our hometown, New York City, from the Library of Congress. We realized analyzing maps could help students develop skills relating to social studies as well as literacy, math, and art.
Projecting the Map of the City of New York from 1865 on an interactive white board, I asked students to make interactive observations and comparisons with a recent map. As their comparative investigation began, I was thrilled to hear questions like, “Ms. Sweeting, how did they move the roads?” and “Why did they change the street names?”
As I circulated from group to group, I overheard “accountable talk,” the participation in instructional conversations that builds on each others’ responses. “My daddy’s job is right by the seaport,” one fourth grader recalled as he examined lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. Maps became a tool to help build my students’ literacy and oral language skills.
Their initial success helped motivate my students, increasing their readiness to learn and giving them confidence to apply information in other subject areas. After their comparative analysis, it was a smooth transition then to calculate distances using a map scale to address requirements in math.
Little did my students know that they were being groomed to assume the role of map-makers. The next activity to help students internalize and practice their understanding of scale was to create a map of lower Manhattan.
Your students will be excited to make connections with local area maps. You can search for maps of your area directly from the Library’s main page; use the drop-down box to select the “map” format. For more map activity ideas, visit Getting Started with Maps. Look for an upcoming blog about the new and improved features for finding and using many of the Library’s digitized maps.
How have you used maps to help your students build connections and apply skills in other subject areas?