Why Us Our Maps?

Modern social studies and language arts texts are so colorful and well-designed, it would seem all a child need do is hold the book to his or her nose and breathe in. The information should practically float off the page and drift into the student’s mind. Publishers control the number of words on every page. They surround the print with wonderful pictures and have even gone so far as to highlight the key words for the student.

Why, then, do we hear many of our students are still failing to acquire basic geography concepts and learn crucial information?

There’s a big difference between recognition and recall. When the publisher does most of the work, the publisher owns most of the recall. If the student does little work, he or she may acknowledge recognition of the book’s information but be unable to recall the specifics when questioned or tested later on.

Here’s an example: Let’s say we’re talking Columbus. The book traces Columbus’ route to the new world, discusses the number of times Columbus traveled back and forth from Palos, Spain to the Americas and describes how he explored the West Indies. It covers all the information one expects to learn about this important figure in our history. Having completed the reading assignment, the teacher may ask the student, “Do you understand? Do you get it?” The student nods his or her head in understanding…. when all he or she really saw was “a guy on a boat.” This is so familiar it is reminiscent of the famous Dream Work’s movie, Shrek. In Shrek’s world, all characters lived a long time ago in a place called Far Far Away.

Having read the description of Columbus, the student did think he understood it! She did picture the big, common nouns that matched ideas she already had in her brain. He did see the guy, the boat, the water. They were listening, but the story happened on a wall map in the classroom or on a map in the text. Since those maps were not located in the student’s mind, the complex ideas in the reading material went to “Far Far Away”. From there, they slipped away. Book closed, case closed!

Providing students with the information needed to draw a few freehand maps will change that. Students create mental storage space for geographic concepts and have an important avenue to engage with all other areas in their curriculum.

Remember the Five W’s? Who, What, When, Where, and Why? These maps will secure ground for the “where” and this will help place the “who, what, when and why”. Plus … FreeHand Maps are fun, portable, traveling within the learner. They are easy to learn, and available at the speed of thought!

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