Archive for the 'geography' Category

Teaching Map Skills

(VA Geography 2.5, 2.6)

–    2.5  The student will develop map skills by: a) locating the equator, the seven continents, and the five oceans on maps and globes; b) locating selected rivers (James River, Mississppi River, Rio Grande, Huang He, and the Nile River, mountain ranges (Appalachian Mountains and Rocky Mountains), and lakes (Greak Lakes) in the United States and other countries
–    2.6  Students will develop map skills by constructing simple maps using title, map legend, and compass rose. Students will also learn the importance of having these map skills and how the skills can be used every day.

Text Annotations:

1.    Maps and Globes by Jack Knowlton, Illustrated by Harriet Barton:

– “Maps and Globes” is a beginners book that introduces younger students to different maps. The book stresses the importance of maps as well as where various countries, deserts, oceans, and moutains are on a map. This is book is great starting point for teachers and parents to use when it comes time to inform your student or child about basic map skills.
2.    Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney, Illustrated by Annette Cable:

“Me on the Map” is another great introduction into map skills. The book begins with a young girl creating a map of her room, house, street etc as a way to introduce that same idea just within states, countries, and the world. Joan Sweeney does a great job comparing different things that young children can identify with, to the bigger picture aspect of understanding maps.
3.    Where Do I Live? by Neil Chesanow:

This book uses colorful illustrations and easy words to explain to children where they live. The author starts with a child’s room, their home, neighborhood, town, state, and country; then the author moves out to Earth, the solar system, and the Milky Way. Then, the child is drawn back to a page of questions about the reaser’s own street, town, state etc. Another great book that provides a different approach to the use of maps and globes.
4.    Follow That Map! by Scot Ritchie:

This book tells a story about Sally and her friends playing in her backyard when they notice that both her dog and cat are missing. Sally and her friends are determined to find them so they set off on a journey through their neighborhood, park, zoo and eventually through the country and around the world. A unique aspect of this book compared to others is that any map-related information appears in bold type to notify students of it’s importance.
5.    There's a Map on My Lap by Tish Rabe, Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz:

A Cat in the Hat book informing students about map skills. This book is a great way to keep the attention of students because of the way the information is presented. The book introduces readers to different kinds of cities and states as well as topography, temperature, and terrain. Also things such as symbols, scales, and compasses are addressed.

Web Annotations:

Assorted Resources

Teaching Ancient Civilizations Using Children’s Literature: Ancient China


Ancient China from Dorling Kindersly’s Eyewitness series is a wonderful guidebook that allows the reader to discover the history of Imperial China, from the Great Wall to the days of the last emperor. The book is very informative and highly engaging. It features wonderful photographs of scenery and artifacts by skilled photographers, Alan Hills & Geoff Brighling. This book is very comprehensive and covers 26 different sections on Ancient China which allows for days upon days of exploration for the reader.  The format of the book allows the reader to read as little or as much as they would like about Ancient China, as the reader does not have to read the book cover to cover to gather an adequate knowledge about the topic. The book is written in a fashion that helps take the reader through a virtual tour of China, with sections discussing it’s earliest beginnings to information about China’s emperors, to information about the lifestyle of the Chinese (food, traditions, livelihood, home life, dress, adornment, etc.). In addition to the amazing photographs the book’s content includes time lines,suggested internet resources, and a helpful glossary. This book would be an excellent read for the inquisitive mind and would be a great resource for teaching about ancient civilizations. Both teachers and students would find this book wonderful and interesting and I think this a good book for the upper elementary classroom. The book is written by Arthur Cotterell and is one of many published by the highly proclaimed Dorling Kindersly.

Curriculum Connections
Ancient China is a great and would be most approparite for VA SOL History 2.1 in which the student is expected to explain how the contributions of ancient China and Egypt have influenced the present world in terms of architecture, inventions, the calendar, and written language. Although some of the content and wording in the book may be too advanced for second graders the information can easily be relayed in a more age/grade appropriate manner by the teacher.

Additional Resources

  • Great website for kids on Ancient China
  • Website full of Ancient China lesson plans (for teachers)
  • Website with tons of Chinese and Ancient China related coloring pages and other kid friendly activities
  • Teacher could hold a Chinese culture day, this website provides ideas and recipes for Chinese dishes

Book: Eyewitness Books: Ancient China

Author:Arthur Cotterell

Illustrator: Photographs by Alan Hills & Geoff Brightling

Publisher: Dorling Kindersley

Publication Date: 2005

Pages: 71 pages

Grade Range: 2-6

10: 0-7566-1391-4

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Who Lives in An Alligator Hole?

Who Lives in an Alligator Hole

"What do you know about alligators?"  After reading the nonfiction picture book, Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell, readers will have learned facts about alligators, their history, wetland habitat, and their impact on the unique ecosystem they inhabit.  During the dry season in Florida’s wetlands, alligators create gator holes by digging in damp muck and thrashing about to shove the thick muck away.  “Soon a wide hole fills with water a few feet deep.  Then a lot starts to happen in the gator hole,”  as numerous species of animals are drawn to the watering hole. The author explains that scientists consider alligators to be a “keystone species” because of their importance to the other plants and animals in their habitat.  Next the author traces the dramatic impact that humans have had on the American Alligator who came close to extinction thirty years ago and what has been done to save them.  Today, “[t]he American alligator is one of the world’s most successful stories of a species saved from extinction just in time”.  Readers are asked to think of ways to save the Chinese alligator who continues to be endangered.  The illustrations are simple and work well to support the text.  The book ends with an activity designed to help students understand why other animals are dependent on the alligator hole for water and a page of “Gator Facts” that don’t fit elsewhere in the story.  This book is yet another successful introduction to basic science concepts from the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out About Science Series.

Curriculum Connections

Like most of the books in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out About Science series, this book addresses several themes from the standard elementary science curriculum.  The book is best used to teach living systems and the interdependence of living organisms with their living and nonliving surroundings and the ways that habitats change over time (2.5, 3.5, and 4.5), particularly in water-related environments (3.6, 3.9, and 6.7d).  But the book can also be used to teach about the impact that natural events and human influences can have on a species or habitat (K.9a, 3.10a-b, and 6.9d).

Additional Resources

  • American Alligator – National Geographic Kids– This site includes a number of facts and supporting information about the American Alligator and its habitat, video footage of the reptile in his natural setting, and a map of the areas where he lives.
  • Endangered Species Program – Kids Can Help – This site for kids from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service includes a number of ideas for kids to help conserve rare, threatened and endangered species and their habitats.
  • Lesson Plan on Endangered Species – This lesson plan is a good extension activity to use when talking about the impact of human intervention on ecosystems and endangered species. It could even be adapted to the Chinese Alligator mentioned in the book.
  • Mini-Ecosystems Lesson Plan – This lesson plan is written with a third grade classroom in mind.  Students make small-scale environments and describe the interactions between living and nonliving things in their environments.

Book: Who Lives in an Alligator Hole?
Author: Anne Rockwell
Illustrator: Lizzy Rockwell
Publisher: Collins
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 40
Grade Range: PreK-3
ISBN: 006445200X

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: We’re Riding on a Caravan


We’re Riding on a Caravan is written by Laurie Krebs and illustrated by Helen Cann.  This book chronicles the journey a family makes along the silk road in China.  As the family travels from Xi’an to Kashgar over the course of a year they make many stops to trade in places such Lanzhou and Turpan.  Throughout their travels the family trades silk for the many items they are going to need to survive their passage on the silk road.  The final pages of the book provide the reader with a map of the silk road, a story about the origins of silk and brief history of the silk road.

Curriculum Connections

We’re Riding on a Caravan is a great book to teach students about how far people used to have to travel to get the goods they needed and desired.  This book can be used to reinforce a lesson about maps (K.4) and understanding the relationship between the environment and the culture of ancient China (2.4).  It can also be used has an opener to lessons about about American journeys similar to the silk road such as the Oregon trail.

Additional Resources 

  • The Silk Road Project this site offers some interactive curriculum and music from the silk road
  • Map of the Silk Road clear and easy to read map of the silk road.
  • Making silk this site offers a detailed description about the making and history of silk and how it has not changed for hundreds of years.

Book: We’re Riding on a Caravan
Author: Laurie Krebs
Illustrator: Helen Cann
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 28 pages
Grade Range: 1-3
ISBN: 1-84148-343-5

Teaching Geography With Children’s Literature: Follow That Map! A First Book of Mapping Skills



"Do you know how to find a hidden treasure?  Do you know how far your house is from the candy store?  Do you know the way to your favorite ride at the amusement park?  It's easy!  Join the friends below and follow that map!"  This book teaches kids all about maps in a fun and interactive way.  Terms such as legend, compass rose, landmarks, and symbols are introduced.  There are also sections on understanding a globe and creating your own map.  A convenient index of map terms is also included.

Curriculum Connections

A great introductory level book, this could be used to introduce the concepts of maps.  Once introduced, the students could create their own maps.

It would teach them how to demonstrate map skills by constructing simple maps, using title, map legend, and compass rose. (SOL 2.6 ).  The book would be most appropriate for grade levels 2-3.

Additional Resources

This teacher’s site has many great ideas for class activities about maps.  Even contains a video on reading maps for the students to watch!

This activity page allows students to decorate their own compass rose as well as complete the direction labels.

This video clip shows teachers some ideas for teaching kids about map skills.

This site contains learning activities directly related to the book, provided by publisher.

Title: Follow that Map! A First Book of Mapping Skills

Author: Scot Ritchie


Publication Date: 2009

Pages: 32

Grade Range: 2-3

ISBN: 978-155453-274- 2


Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: The Patchwork Path


The Patchwork Path is written by Bettye Stround and illustrated by Erin Susanna Bennett.  The story is told by Hannah, a ten year old girl, who is a slave on a Georgia plantation.  When the story begins, Hannah’s sister has been sold to another plantation and soon after that, her mother passes away.  Before her mother died she taught Hannah how to make a special quilt.  Each section of the quilt has a special meaning and gives directions to run to freedom.  There is a code that goes along with the quilt to remember what each section means.

The monkey wrench
turns the wagon wheel
toward Canada on the bear’s paw trail to the crossroads.
Once they got to the crossroads,
they dug a log cabin on the ground.
Shoofly told them to dress up in cotton
and satin bow ties and go to the cathedral church, get married, and exchange double rings.
Flying geese stay on
the drunkard’s path and
follow the stars.

The monkey wrench is the quilt itself.  One day in spring Hannah’s papa has her air out the quilt and that signals to the other slaves that they will be escaping tonight. The wagon wheel is Hannah’s papa because he is the wagon driver for the plantation so he knows all the roads, streams, and woods and knows where to hide while they are escaping.  Hannah and her papa escape that night and run through the woods until they get to a church where they hide under the floor boards until it is safe for them to come out again.  The next day they see a flock of geese flying North and they know they must follow the geese to get to freedom.  On their journey they find bear paw marks and that leads them to a safe cave to sleep in for the night.  They always walked in a zigzag pattern like a drunkard’s path because it would be harder for the Master’s dogs to catch their scent.  The Shoofly pattern on the quilt reminded them that if anyone ever came after them they should scatter like flies and then meet up at the spot that they were separated.  After a long journey Hannah and her papa finally make it to Lake Erie where they drew a log cabin in the sand to signal that they needed help to cross the lake into Canada.  That night a free black man found their sign and brought them new clothes.  The new clothes made Hannah and her papa look like they were already free and headed to church.  That night they board a boat for Canada and sail into freedom.  During their first winter of freedom Hannah makes a new quilt with scraps of their old slave clothing, sections of their other quilt, and new fabric too.  Hannah leaves one section blank so that when her sister Mary is reunited with them, they can finish the quilt together.

Curriculum Connections
The Patchwork Path would be a great book to read after student’s have had some experience with maps and directions.  It was recommended for grades K – 3, but I think that Kindergarten would be a little too young to use this book to illustrate using maps.  It would be better to show how student’s could make a simple map of a familiar area, like their neighborhood or home town and for older students, including a title, legend and compass rose with their map (VA SOL 1.5, 2.6).

Additional Resources

  • Students could use this coloring page as a map and then write a secret code about how to get to the “X”.
  • This website has printable pages to make a “Where I Live” booklet.
  • This website is an interactive map about the underground railroad. It has 3 different activities such as finding the shortest route for a person escaping from slavery in Georgia.

Book: The Patchwork Path
Author: Bettye Stroud
Illustrator: Erin Susanne Bennett
Publisher: Candlewick
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: K-3

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: What The World Eats


 Introduction and Summary

What The World Eats is a very informative factual book written by Faith D’Aluisio. The book provides a snapshot of what people around the world eat. It is a very enlightening book that really engages the reader and would be a wonderful tool to get students thinking. The book includes many maps including a world map which indicates all the countries profiled in the book and then smaller maps for each country that is profiled. The book provides facts about each of the locations and also stats about that particular area’s population and demogrpahic information. A native family is profiled for each country that is profiled and excellent, compelling photographsby Peter Menzel adorn each page. The profile includes information about the country, what the family eats, how they get their food, how much they spend on food, etc.

Curriculum Connections

This book would be great to use in a unit when students are learning about other countries and cultures. Because the book profiles so many different families in different countries studnets can ot only learn about other countries but also the people who inhabit those countries and get a look at their culture. This book could also be used to compare and contrast the United States of America and the American lifestyle with those of other countries, especially developing nations.

In Virginia, this book would be a great resource to use with Virginia SOL standards WG 1 (e) and WG 4.

Additional Resources

 1. The book includes recipes that each profile family selected to share with the readers. Teachers could select a few of these recipes and bring the dishes into school to share with the class.

 2. A great website providing lesson plans and activities for using food to dicuss cultures and countries.

3.  This website provides an interactive World map that students can use to explore more about different countries.

4. This is the website that accompanies the book!

General Information

Book: What The World Eats

Author: Faith D’Aluisio

Photographer: Peter Menzel

Publisher: Tricycle Press

Publication Date: 2008

Pages: 160

Grade Range: 5-8

ISBN: 1582462461

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Travels with Charlie: Travelin’ the Northeast


Introduction and Summary
Travels with Charlie: Travelin’ the Northeast written by Miles Backer and illustrated by Chuck Nitzberg, is all about the Northeast United States. It includes the 12 states from Maine to Ohio to Maryland. The book features a different state on each page with seek-and-find questions in a poetic form. Along the tab of each page is information about the state including the capital, flag, and lots of interesting facts. A dog named Charlie goes to each state and hides somewhere in the state. Can you find Charlie?

Find Manhattan Island, home to Wall Street.
Find the Statue of Liberty. Find hot dogs to eat.

Where’s Charlie?”

Curriculum Connections
This is a great book to introduce upper elementary students to the Northeast states as a region. It can be used in conjunction with the other books in the Travels with Charlie series, Way Out West and Way Down South. With the multitude of maps used, it could also be a great way to explore the use of maps and key landmarks on a map in the younger grades (History SOL K.4a,b., 1.4a) The incorporation of the geographical landmarks and bodies of water such as the Great Lakes and the Statue of Liberty would be beneficial for older elementary as well (USI.1f, USI.2b, c)

Additional Resources

  •  Northeast Geography Lesson: A great lesson plan geared for grades 3-5 that focuses on map skills and resources of the Northeast USA
  • Northeast and more: This website is a great tool to allow students to research the regions of the United States with lots of information and pictures about each region
  • Northeast Info: this site has great information about the products and resources of the Northeast region as well as the geographic landforms, populations, climates, and tourist locations

Book: Travels with Charlie: Travelin’ the Northeast
Author: Miles Backer
Illustrator: Chuck Nitzberg
Blue Apple Books
Publication Date: 2006
Pages:  36 pages
Grade Range: 2nd-5th grade
ISBN: 1593541627

Teaching Geography With Children’s Literature: The Santa Fe Trail



Introduction and Summary

The Santa Fe Trail by Judy Alter is a book about settlers traveling West in order to find a better life in the United States.  However, much of what is talked about in the book is the different terrain that the settlers come across while on their journey out West.  The book includes many photos and illustrations of the types of terrain settlers dealt with on their long journey, including overgrown grassy fields, the Rocky mountains, and even deserts.  The book also illustrates maps of the trail as well as states it ran through. The Santa Fe Trail goes into depth as well about westward expansion, important figures who were involved, and even gives a list of important vocabulary words in the back of the book as well as a timeline of events.


Curriculum Connections

This book would be great to use in a unit about traveling out West, particularly on trails such as the Santa Fe.  This book would be best for grades 3-5 because it involves quite a bit of text as well as vocabulary words that might be somewhat advanced for younger grades.  In Virginia, this book would be a great resource to use with Virginia SOL standards USII.2 and USII.3.

Additional Resources

 1. Here is a fun way for students to learn more about the Santa Fe Trail through a webquest.

2. This site is not a webquest but allows students to visit various interesting sites about the Santa Fe Trail in order to fill in the blanks for questions they are supposed to answer (listed on site).  Teachers can go over these questions in class once students have completed the assignment.

3. This is an activity book with lots of fun games about the Santa Fe Trail for students to play.

General Information

Book: The Santa Fe Trail

Author: Judy Alter

Illustrator: n/a

Publisher: Children’s Press

Publication Date: 1998

Pages: 30

Grade Range: 3-5

ISBN: 0-516-26396-X

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: A River Ran Wild



Introduction and Summary

A River Ran Wild, written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry, tells the story of the Nashua river in New England.  Children opening the book will see a map of New England in the 1500’s on one side and another map of New England in the 1900’s focusing on the states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts which is where the Nashua flowed.  The “Nash-a-way” got it’s name from the native American tribe Nashau who settled on it seven thousand years ago.  Cherry points out that the Nash-a-way river and it’s surroundings gave the Nashua people everything they needed in life.  “The Nashua people saw a rhythm in their lives and in the seasons.  The river, land, and forest provided all that they needed.”  In the early sixteen hundreds, the white settlers of New England began to settle by the river which they named the Nashua.  They built sawmills that used the river’s current for power and dams to make millponds to store water.  The white settlers cut down the forest and used the lumber to build houses and furniture.  During the industrial revolution, the river was used for paper mills and other factories where all of the waste was dumped into the river.  In a short amount of time, the river was clogged with pulp, dyes, chemicals, and plastics.  The river smelled and all of it’s wildlife, and the wildlife that used it as a resource, “grew sick from this pollution.”  In the end, a descendant of the Nashua people known as Oweana and Marion Stoddart formed a committee to stop polluting the Nashua river.  In the 1960’s, they finally succeeded.  Now the Nashua has been cleared of it’s pollution and the wildlife has returned to it.  “We, too, have settled by this river.  Pebbles shine up through clear water.”

The illustrations in this book are beautiful and most of the pages with print have miniature illustrations of objects and historical events that were a part of people’s lives through time, such as clay pots, bows and arrows, and wooden bowls during the native American settlements through airplanes, automobiles and the Vietnam war in the late twentieth century.

Curriculum Connections

The book opens with a map showing where the Nashua river is located.   This book would be great for Kindergarten through second grade.  The student would see the shape of the northeast part of the United States to include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island (VA SOL 1.4 c) and will be able to locate land and water features. (VA SOL K.4 c)  Students will also learn about how two different cultures of people affect their immediate surroundings.  The Nashua community took only what they needed from the river and the surrounding environment for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and recreation.  The white settlers polluted the river thus limiting it as a natural resource.  Through the effort of the community, people were able to bring life back to the river so it could be e resource again. (VA SOL 1.6 and 2.4 d)

Additional Resources is a website that contains maps and geography classroom activities as well as lesson plans for elementary school students.

United States Geography, including Capitals, States, and Landscapes can be found at the Sheppard Software website.  This site has fun and free games children can play.

K Bears has a great site for world geography.  An animated bear will take children on a tour of the world.

General Information

Book: A River Ran Wild
Author: Lynne Cherry
Illustrator: Lynne Cherry
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
Publication Date: 1992
Pages: 30
Grade Range: K-2nd
ISBN: 0-15-200542-0