Monthly Archive for October, 2009

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: From Here to There


From Here to There , written by Margery Cuyler, is a simple, yet beautifully illustrated, book that shows where a little girl, Maria, lives with her family.  It illuminates the concept that we are all part of a world that is bigger than our own home, town, and state.

Curriculum Connections:  From Here to There is a good book for teaching the concept that we are all part of the solar system we live in, as seen in the beautiful pictures of the progression of where her home fits into this world.  It starts at her home, then moves to her town, her county, her state, then country, hemisphere, planet, solar system, galaxy, and beyond.  Geography SOL 1.4

Additional Resources:
This website provides instructions on setting up a lego station so that children can work as a team to build a community by constructing roads and prominent buildings, such as fire stations, their school, grocery store, etc.  This is a good idea to continue reinforcing the idea of maps and the use of map symbols.

This website offers instructions on how to teach children about maps.  It starts with making a map of the classroom, then a map of the school, then the community, and so forth.  You can make this activity reach as far as you want it to, based on the level of your students…just like the book!

This website is an interactive website that could be done independently, or collectively as a class, projected onto the board or screen.  It is a simple map with questions that help teach basic map symbols, how to follow a map, and use of the compass rose.

General Information:
: From Here to There
Author: Margery Cuyler
Illustrator: Yu Cha Pak
Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd.
Pages:  32
Grade Range: K-2
ISBN:  0-8050-3191

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure


Have you ever heard of Alice Ramsey?  I hadn’t, until I read the book Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure, written and illustrated by Don Brown.  This book tells the story of the first woman to drive across the United States!  With its simple text and great illustrations, the book might be used in a geography lesson to teach about different areas of the country, or could also be used as an introduction to a history or biography lesson on Alice Ramsey herself.

The straightforward, informative way this book is written makes it perfect to be read aloud.  The book begins, “On June 9, 1909, Alice Ramsey drove out of New York City and into a grand adventure.  Alice Ramsey wanted to be the first woman to drive across America.”  From there, it goes on to tell, step-by-step, each location Ramsey visited.  The descriptions of each place highlight important things, as well.  For example, Brown describes Chicago’s railway system: “Chicago, Illinois was a railroad center.  The car bounced over mile after mile of rail until the women were dizzy.”   The book ends when the women (Ramsey traveled with her two sisters-in-law and a close friend) reach San Francisco, and goes on to explain that after her first trip, Alice drove across the country more than 30 times by the time she was seventy.  The text provides a lot of information, but presents it in an easy to understand format — this is what makes it great for use in the classroom.

Curriculum Connections

Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure could be used to teach a geography lesson about the United States while students also learn about who Alice Ramsey was and what she accomplished.  The states mentioned in the book include New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and California.  Since Ramsey made her journey in 1909, students could research what the United States was like then and imagine what it might have been like for Ramsey to travel through all of those states.  SOLs USII.1 and USII.2 focus on Social Studies skills and Geograph, and the book could be used to focus on the geography of the states mentioned and to get students thinking about life in the early twentieth century.

Additional Resources

  • is a great resource for more information about our book’s heroine and includes a section just for educators.  The website also contains information about a movie made focusing on Ramsey, as well as more pictures and materials to help students delve deeper into the story.
  • This Digital History website has information about everyday life in the 1900s.  Students can learn how their families and lives today are different from everyday life in the beginning of the 20th century.  Although the information provided is basic, it could serve as a jump-start to a lesson on Geography.
  • contains a huge amount of information about the 50 states in a kid-friendly format.  Each state is featured on his interactive maps, and there are also links to find out more info about the history and traditions of the states.  This site could be useful to collect background information for geography or history lessons, but could also be used by students for individual research!

General Information

Book: Alice Ramsey’s Grand Adventure
Author: Don Brown
Illustrator: Don Brown
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 3-6
ISBN-13: 978-0618073160

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Somewhere in the World Right Now


Somewhere in the World Right Now, written and illustrated by Stacey Schuett, shows the reader events taking place around the world at the same time.

“Somewhere, the night wind sighs and murmurs.  The moon shines through a window.  A little girl is dreaming of tomorrow.  But somewhere else, right now, tomorrow is already here.  Dawn is breaking.  A rooster crows and people are waking up.”

Somewhere in the World Right Now takes the reader through events that are happening at the exact same time all around the world.  In  Kenya, elephants are sleeping standing up.  In Madagascar, a little girl is dreaming of tomorrow.  In China, the day has already started – people are going to work and children are heading to school.  Each page has a map of the area being discussed as the background.  This book does a nice job of illustrating different parts of the world and also introduces the topic of time zones.

Curriculum Connections:
Somewhere in the World Right Now is a fun book to read when introducing map concepts to students.  It can be used in lessons discussing the way a community, climate and physical surroundings affect the way people live, basic map recognition and reading, and describing different geographic regions.  These topics correlate with the Virginia History and Social Science Standards of Learning K.4, 1.6, 3.5, 3.6.

Additional Resources:
Continents Lesson Plan: This lesson plan helps students learn the names and locations of each continent by creating their own world map.

Where on Earth are you? Lesson Plan:  This lesson plan introduces basic map skills and map history to students.  It also includes some worksheets and activity ideas.

Time Zone Bulletin Board: This short article includes an idea for creating a bulletin board with clocks made during a time zone lesson.

Literature Mapping: This link provides a month long activity idea for students to plot locations on a world map of different stories as they read them.  There is a nice list of suggested books included.

General Information:
Book: Somewhere in the World Right Now
Author: Stacey Schuett
Illustrator: Stacey Schuett
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: November 1997
Pages: 40
Grade Range: K-5
ISBN-10: 0679885498
ISBN-13:  9780679885498

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Follow That Map! : A First Look at Mapping Skills


Follow That Map!: A First Look at Mapping Skills written & illustrated by Scot Ritchie, is a great introduction on how to use a map.

Follow That Map starts off with a getting started page. It gives kid friendly examples and definitions of different parts of a map from a compass rose to a legend. “The compass rose on a map will always point north. Some compass roses show all four cardinal directions-north, south, east, west.” Sally and her friends notice that her cat and dog are missing. They decide to find them. They use different types of maps to go searching for the missing pets. Each map focuses on a different part of a map. They start off using a map of the park, proceed to use a trail, city, and a country map. It even incorporates a look at a weather map, treasure map, and topographical map. “A topographical map shows the natural features of the landscape. You can use this kind of map to find rolling hills, low-lying lakes, or high mountains.” It even includes steps on how to create your own map.

Curriculum Connections

Follow That Map is a great resource when you are studying maps. It incorporates different symbols, and gives students a look at different types of maps. It is connected to VA SOL Social Studies Geography 1.4(a) & (b). The student will develop map skills by a.) recognizing basic map skills, including refernces to land water, cities, and roads; b.) using cardinal directions on maps.

Additional Resources

General Information

Book: Follow that Map!: A First Look at Mapping Skills
Author:Scot Ritchie
Illustrator: Scot Ritchie
Publisher:Kids Can Press, Limited
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: 1-5
ISBN: 9781554532742

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Land Ho! Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration


Are you exploring for a good geography book? Look no further!  Before your next geography lesson, read Land Ho!  Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration, written and illustrated by Nancy Winslow Parker, to learn all about twelve famous explorers.

Did you know that Columbus was not actually searching for America when he found it?  Or that many of the explorers after him were looking for a sea route to China instead?  During the golden age of exploration, men set sail with hopes of finding different travel routes, treasures, and spices.  The fact that they came ashore on uncharted land was not only one of the greatest accidents of all time, it also led to one of the greatest discoveries – the New World!  From Columbus to Cabrillo, this book follows the adventures and misadventures of twelve famous explorers from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Nancy Winslow Parker has mapped out a truly enjoyable and educational journey filled with dozens of detailed and colorful illustrations depicting the explorers’ ships, equipment, and travel routes.  Parker (2001) writes, “In fifty years, the explorers discovered countless Indian tribes, a new ocean (the Pacific), rivers, plants, animals, and geographical wonders”(pg 3).  So set sail and explore this book!

Curriculum Connections
In the area of geography, the  Virginia History and Social Studies SOL’s for grades 3-5  stresses the importance of  understanding basic geographic maps and concepts.  Land Ho!  Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration is appropriate for multiple grade levels and could be used to directly address SOL’s 3.3a, 3.3b, 3.5d.

If you would like to create some geography sense in your classroom and find out more about the basics of exploration,  here are a few suggestions for grades 3-5:

  • Play “Who am I”?  Have students draw explorers out of a hat and give out clues.  The rest of the class will guess.  This game can also be played by drawing countries and having the students give directional map clues.   
  • Shower curtain Map – Take a shower curtain and draw a map of the world.  You can use an overhead to project the map onto the shower curtain.  Have the children draw cards from a bowl.  On each card will be a country, or a river, or a compass rose etc…and the students should then take turns labeling the map.  You can also use just a US map and have them take turns labeling the 50 states. 

Additional Resources
Try these websites where you’ll find lesson plans, worksheets, activities and free online games to aid in your geographic education quest.

  • National Geographic– a link that takes you directly to a free online education resource for exploring countries of the world
  • King Tut’s Treasure – an exploration lesson plan for K-2
  • Lewis & Clark – an exploration lesson plan for 3rd-5th
  • National Geographic – a link that takes you directly to a geography game.  Kids can do this at home!
  • Owl & Mouse – a website that offers free maps & free software!
  • TLS Books – a website that offers loads of free printable geography worksheets

Book: Land Ho!  Fifty Glorious Years in the Age of Exploration
Author:  Nancy Winslow Parker
Illustrator:  Nancy Winslow Parker
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date:  2001
Pages:  40 pages
Grade Range:  3-5
ISBN-13:  978-0060277598

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Adventures in Ancient Egypt


Adventures in Ancient Egypt written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Bill Slavin is a developmentally appropriate, text within a text approach to teaching children about the geographic and cultural history of ancient Egypt.

Linda Bailey does an excellent job of presenting the factual information alongside a kid-friendly and engaging story line by using a text within a text approach. She begins by instantly engaging students using a comic book-like format and three bored children with nothing to do on a summer day. They end up in a run down travel agency which eventually leads to a trip back in time to ancient Egypt. “There was a terrible, wonderful flash and . . . in one brief moment, everything changed!” The book continues by following the kids’ adventures along the Nile River, visiting an Egyptian town, school, and pyramid along with experiencing other culturally important Egyptian concepts. Bailey pairs this adventure with detailed historical commentary about the locations and cultural features the kids are experiencing along the bottom of each page.

Presenting the information and concepts by using these methods simultaneously allows students to learn about ancient Egypt on two distinct and effective levels.

Curriculum Connections 

Adventures in Ancient Egypt effectively introduces second or third grade students to the relationship between ancient Egypt’s environment and culture (VA SOL 2.4b).

Additional Resources

  • This lesson plan is a great hands-on way for students to interact with hieroglyphs.
  • Teachers can use this coloring sheet to stimulate discussion on pyramids and their importance in ancient Egyptian culture.
  • This website provides extra background material and visuals on ancient Egypt.
  • This website is a conglomeration of on-line ancient Egyptian games and activities to further re-inforce the concepts students are learning.

Book: Adventures in Ancient Egypt
Author: Linda Bailey
Illustrator: Bill Slavin
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: September, 1 2000
Pages: 48 pages
Grade Range: 2-3
ISBN: 978-1550745481

Teaching Geography with Children's Literature: Me On the Map


What a wonderful book to help explain a child’s place in the world! Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney is a great introduction to maps for young students. A little girl begins the book by stating, “This is me. This is me in my room. This is a map of my room.”  She continues expanding from her room’s place in her house, to her street, to her town, all the way to the world. 

I really like how Sweeney explains that the Earth can look round but also be represented in a flat map. “It looks like a giant ball. If you could unroll the world and make it flat…it would look something like this map of the world.”

The pictures and maps in this book really help children visualize their place on Earth. Once the Earth is shown, the book then works back from the Earth, to the United States, to Kansas, to her town, and finally returning to the girls room.

My daughter’s favorite page is one that shows about 15 children doing different activities on the world map. She likes to talk about what country they might be from and why they are doing what they are shown doing. This page opens up a dialogue that can lead to discussions on diversity and differences among cultures.

Me on the Map teaches children many things about geography. It really introduces every Kindergarten Geography SOL in Virginia(K.3, K.4 a,b,c and K.5 a,b,c) This book helps students realize that maps show a view from above, show things in smaller sizes, and the position of objects.  It also helps students use simple maps to develop an awareness that a map is a drawing of a place to show where things are located.

Additional Resources:

  •  has a song about maps and directions that I think is really great to reinforce the ideas in this book.
  • This is an activity sheet which asks students (with their parents help) to answer questions about where they live. Then, they are to draw a map of where they live. These maps should be shared with the class. Some students will draw a map of their room, some of their house, some of their state, etc.
  • Here is a lesson plan that I really like that goes along with Me on the Map

 Book: Me on the Map
 Author: Joan Sweeney

Illustrator: Annette Cable
Publisher: Dragonfly Books
Publication Date: 1998
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN: 0517885574

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: A World of Wonders


Geography can be an overwhelming subject to teach. Don’t be alarmed! J.Patrick Lewis’s book of poetry, A World of Wonders, illustrated by Alison Jay, covers a wide variety of geographical concepts through different types of poems that your students will love!

The book opens with an acrostic poem about Christopher Columbus’ discovery in 1492, and takes readers on a voyage all over the world. With fun and engaging illustrations, Lewis writes poems about Marco Polo, Aurora Borealis, the difference between longitude and latitude, the poles, and the five oceans, only to name a few. One of my favorite pages is full of 6 City Riddles, where students must guess where in the world they would be given the clues. I love the riddle for Sydney, Australia: “Where are you if…You see a modern opera house? Come visit here and bring your spouse–Or y’r mate, if you may. Enjoy a barbie shrimp! G’day!” The book concludes with a poem which encourages children to take care of their world, an essential topic to tie into a geography lesson: “Make the Earth your companion. Walk lightly on it, as other creatures do. Let the Sky paint her beauty–she is always watching over you.”

Curriculum Connections

This book could be used in many different areas of geography, and across a number of different grades. Since the topics from poem to poem are so different from each other, I would suggest reading applicable poems at the start of a geography lesson. For example, when beginning a lesson on the five oceans, share with students the poem “Oceans Five.” A World of Wonders could be applied to SOL 2.5, where students must locate the equator, 7 continents and 5 oceans, and 3.5, which further studies the continents, oceans, and the equator, as well as studying the regions discovered by different explorers. Lewis’ book could also be applied to some of the SOLs for Virginia Studies, such as USI.2, which covers different geographic regions of North America, and water features of the United States. The World Geography SOL WG.4 could be taught through this book as well, because it challenges students to analyze and locate physical, economic and cultural characteristics of the world regions.

Additional Resources

  • Allow your students to explore countries all over the world on National Geographic’s kid-friendly site.
  • Play this Message in a Bottle game to teach your students about longitude and latitude.
  • Where in the World? is a great webquest to use in your classroom, where students collect information of a world region to write a postcard home to the states.

General Information
Book: A World of Wonders
Author: J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrator: Alison Jay
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 40
Grade Range: 2-4

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: The Scrambled States of America, Talent Show


Have you ever been playing with your friends and all of the sudden someone shouts out, “Lets put on a talent show!!!” as loud as they can?  Well, that is exactly what happens in,  The Scrambled States of America, Talent Show, by Laurie Keller.  The rest of what follows in the colorful pages is the chaos that always emerges with the production of a talent show, only the performers are the various states of the United States of America.

Each state has their specialty or they team up with other states to come up with a killers act.  For example, New Jersey, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and New York form the band The New States on the Block and got the whole audience of states on their feet.

On every page there are so many fun and interesting things to read because Laurie Keller doesn’t include just one state on each page, instead in the background there are things going on with other states or states commenting on what other states are doing.  These little side note quips make the book so much fun to read.

Also, on the inside of both the front and back cover all of the states abbreviations are listed as well as when that state was adopted into the union officially.  There is a map at the beginning and the end of this book that shows the students exactly where the states are in the US Also, the fact that each state remains in its true state shape while they are performing in the talent show will help the students remember what the state look like and where it fits in with the rest of the states.

Curriculum Connections

The Scrambled States of America, Talent Show, would be a fun way to help reinforce some of the basic skills of geography learned in SOL 1.4 c & d.  The reader can point out Virginia and make sure students focus on its shape and placement in relation to the other states and as well as the overall shape of the United States.

Additional Resources

  • The prequel to this book is The Scrambled States of America, and would be a good book to pair with The Scrambled States of America, Talent Show.
  • Here is a link to a unit lesson on geography that sends “Travel Pals (beanie babies)” all across the country to visit as many states as possible before they return home at the end of the year.  It sounds challenging to implement but also like the rewards would be awesome.
  • A card/board game is available based on the original book The Scrambled States of America, but it would still be fun every for kids who had only read the Talent Show version.
  • This site has a variety of different geography games based on the USA, including recognition/knowledge of states, capitals, rivers, and more.

Book: The Scrambled States of America, Talent Show
Author: Laurie Keller
Illustrator: Laurie Keller
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Publication Date: August 2008
Pages: 40
Grade Range: 2-5
ISBN: 978-0805079975

Teaching Geography with Children's Literature: Earthshake (Poems from the Ground Up)


The book Earthshake, poems from the ground up, is an accumulation of several poems that are related to the earth.

This book is a fun and interesting way to look at the earth.  Some of the poems are just short little phrases while other ones are about a page long.  The topics span from the earth’s crust, to continents, to wind and fire.  They all have witty, fun names too including “Wyoming Layer Cake”, “Instructions for the Earth’s Dishwasher”, and “Earth Charged in Meteor’s Fiery Death.”  The different titles for the poems make it fun and exciting for the students to read.  It offers a different perspective on how to look at the earth as well.

Curriculum Connection
This book would not me limited to any particular grade considering it is such a general overview and offers such a small introduction to each topic.  It would probably fit well with 1st through 3rd grade.

Additional Resources:
This book has such a wide range of topics that it would be easy to make an international connection.  This website offers information on numerous countries all around the world.
2. This link provides a connection to a science activity that deals with a meteorite
3. This is a helpful website that offers several different maps of countries, towns, cities, and more

General Information:
Earthshake (Poems from the Ground Up)
Author: Lisa Westberg Peters
Illustrator: Cathie Felstead
Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 4-8
ISBN #: 0060292652