Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Through Choice, Students Work Many Skills

I love giving my students choices; it really works their brains beyond the usual activity and allows them to become more invested and constantly engaged in what they are doing!  

For our beginning of the year Social Studies instruction, we started with map skills, latitude and longitude, and geography.  Students had to label three different maps using a set of clues that went with each map.  They worked with a map showing longitude and latitude, a map showing continents and oceans, and a map showing the physical features of the U.S.  In order to find the answers to the clues and aide them in labeling their maps, I provided them with a few resources including Google and atlases.  I didn't tell them what to do beyond that, I just told them to get the work done!  

It was a multi-step activity through which they had to navigate mostly on their own, deciding how they could best get the job done.  I of course provided some guidance, such as questioning their thought process when they had searched Google images for the word "map," and were then overwhelmed by the amount of choices they were given.  I asked them "How could you narrow your search to make it easier for you to choose which map to use?"

It was great because they were working their decision making skills from the get go, starting with choosing which resource would be most effective in helping them to label their maps.  They had to discern how they would enter their search on Google in order to find a map that would successfully help them to label their blank map.  For example, if they are labeling a physical map of the U.S., they can't use a map that only shows the states and capitals of the U.S.  They used reasoning skills, problem solving skills, and logical thinking.  And as usual, I allowed them to collaborate and work with a partner...after all, two heads are better than one!  

Although we have access to the technology, there are some students who have days, or find that for that specific activity, they just prefer to go "old school," close up the tablet, and choose the good ol' atlas as their resource.  Just think about how much more thinking the students are doing through this process as compared to if they were just given a map and told to use it to label their own blank map...  
They literally don't have to think at all for that.

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