The mapping portion of the unit will not only help the students with understanding their neighborhood, but will also help them develop spatial awareness and beginning geography skills. My students have very limited knowledge of maps and how they work; therefore to begin this part of the unit I will show them a variety of maps. Like in the poetry unit I will show them a wide variety of maps we use so that they have a few references to pull from when creating their own maps. We will look at these maps for their common characteristics as well as how they are different. I will ask the students to think about and discuss what the purpose of each map is, how each is useful and what each does not show us about the place it represents.
We will also talk about the basic characteristics of maps such as scale, and a map key. Although it will not be necessary for my students to have a key or other similar parts of a map I want them to know as much about maps as possible when they are creating their own. We will look at a subway map, a local bus map, a map of a hiking trail, a street map, a cultural demographic map, aerial photographs, as well as New Haven's Green Map. A list of resources I found useful for finding maps is in the appendix section of the unit.
I will expose my students to as many maps as I can. I want my students to have an awareness of all the ways one could potentially map an area. This will potentially bring a more authentic representation in their own maps of how they view their neighborhood.
Classroom Mapping Activity
After viewing these commercially produced maps we will begin to explore how we can create our own maps. As a pre-assessment I would ask the students to draw me a map of their favorite room. We will go back to mapping the neighborhood, but at this point I want to get and idea how the students are grasping the concept as well as what they will potentially struggle with. To help them I will give them an outlined template of a room and cut out shapes and home decorating catalogues, so that they do not have to be reliant on their drawing skills, but can simply paste representations of the objects that are in their room. We will share our attempts and celebrate them by beginning a "Map Wall" in our classroom, by hanging them where all of our maps will be displayed.
Then, I will begin by creating a large map of the classroom in which I have not labeled anything. I will show it to the students and ask them if they can guess what I've mapped. When they realize what it is a map of, I will have them help me finish the map by labeling the areas, and pieces they find important and adding anything they feel was left out.
Here the students will go about creating their own maps of our classroom. I will take mine down, to discourage exact replicas and encourage the students to try to make the map the way they perceive the classroom rather than mimic my representation of it. Again, variety of materials will be available to the students, such as cutouts, magazines, photographs, various writing utensils, scissors and glue. This way students can create their map with the materials they feel most comfortable. When students feel satisfied with their final products we will look at the maps we created as a group and talk about how they are similar and different and what is special about each one. We will then add them to the "Map Wall" as well.
This exercise could be repeated with homes if students seem to be having difficulty with the concept. I would do the same lesson format, and simply change the area being mapped to each of our homes. This would allow the students to map something with a more complex thought process, as each map would be of a different place, and would need to be understood by viewers who had not been to that place. It also will give students a chance to map somewhere else and explore how the process could change when mapping a different, more complex place.
School Mapping Activity
I would then have the students work together to create a map of the school. They will each make individual sketches of what they think the map should look like and then we would compare and contrast these maps. To create our group map we would first take a few tours of the school as research. We would then go back to our original sketches and the notes from our tours and collaborate to create a large map of the layout of the school.
Creating this map we will need to collaborate, deciding what we should include and what we can omit. For this exercise we will use large, sturdy roll paper so that we can easily change the size of our map. We also will have the same materials to work with so that the end product most likely will be a combination of drawing and collage. This activity will be very similar to the classroom activity. The difference, however, will be that instead of each student creating their own map as a final product we will create a final product as a group.
Mapping Our Neighborhood
After we have finished these initial lessons, we will return to talking about the neighborhood, I will give the students an opportunity to create a map of their neighborhood, and explain to them that these second maps will be the ones that we share as a class to help us create our collaborative map. I may have the students simply sketch these initial maps as they are meant to be blueprints to work form and not actual final products. When the students have finished their second maps, we will compare them. We will observe which places each child has included or omitted, and talk about what from these maps needs to be included in our group map.
We then will take a tour of the neighborhood around the school. I hope to have parents involved in this part of the project. I believe strongly that our classroom community is incomplete without parent participation. With all projects and units I try to have parents aware of what their students are doing in school, and try to make as many opportunities for their participation in our activities as possible. This unit especially lends itself to parent participation as the neighborhood we are exploring is the parents as well as the students'. The parents will often have insight into the history of their neighborhood, as well as what is available there, that I would not be able to get from an outside source.
Because I try to keep parents involved, the parents will most likely have been involved to some capacity with the unit thus far. They will be assisting with homework that is related, celebrating their child's poetry, discovering poetry with their child, and helping their child to learn about maps. In this section, however, parent participation is especially crucial.
I will invite all parents on this tour. The more parents who help escort the students the easier it will be. The parents will be there to talk to the students about what they see, and what is important. It will also make the tour much safer, as well as give the parents a chance to see their neighborhood in a new light. I plan on giving all the parents who participate a disposable camera, so that we can use their photos as a record of what to include, and possibly use them in our final map.
Upon returning to school we will discuss what we noticed and what we should include in our map that perhaps had been overlooked or unknown when we did our individual renditions. We will then collaborate by making a list of the places that need to be included in our map. We will create a large sketch of the basic street layout of the area and the Students will make recreations of the places we our going to include, and add them to the larger map. The students will work with a partner or very small group to create the portion they have been assigned. They can use all the materials we have used in previous maps. When they are finished with their portion, they can add it to the correct part of the map. We will finalize the map by labeling it, adding any extra touches, including the photographs and signing it. The students can talk about the experience to a partner or a parent and journal what they learned about maps and about their neighborhood.