Thursday, June 5, 2014

Geography in 4th Grade

This year, in my public school 4th grade classroom, Friday mornings I taught Geography. We read about different countries, colored maps, looked up how to pronounce place-names. Last night, I reread Charlotte Mason's writing about geography more closely and am wondering how I want to go about teaching geography next year...

Form II (A and B)* are engaged with the counties of England, county by county, for so diverse are the counties in aspect, history and occupations, that only so can children acquire such a knowledge of England as will prove a key to the geography of every part of the world, whether in the way of comparison or contrast. For instance, while I write, the children in IIA are studying the counties which contain the Thames basin and "Write verses on 'The Thames'" is part of their term's work. Our Sea Power, by H. W. Household, is of extraordinary value in linking England with the world by means of a spirited account of the glorious history of our navy, while the late Sir George Parkin, than whom there is no better qualified authority, carries children round the Empire. They are thrown on their own resources or those of their teachers for what may be called current Geography. For instance, "Learn what you can about The Political Map of Europe after the Great War."
(Vol. 6, pg. 225)

Students in grades 4 through 6 studied the geography of their country, not the world.

Do I want to continue to teach world geography? Or do I want to focus on the geography of California?

Brandy Vencel, Ambleside Online board member and Afterthoughts blog author, suggests using the book The Cruise of the Arctic Star by Scott O'Dell. She also laid out a 36-week schedule (here). After listening to a sample of the audiobook, I'm considering using this book as a read aloud next year.

I think it's important to look at the exam questions for Form IIB (4th grade). As a public school teacher, I have to backwards plan, which means I have to consider how I will test students before anything has been taught.

Exam questions looked like this:
1)Describe a visit to _____.
2)What do you know of _____? (Insert a specific geographical feature or historical figure.)
3)Give a short description of _____ and say where it is.
4)Give a rough sketch map of _____(county), putting in the boundaries, chief towns and rivers.
5)Describe (or What do you know of) [a series of three places]?
Specific questions included:
1)Tell the story of a piece of coal. [If you're curious, I found a book by Edward A. Martin titled The Story of a Piece of Coal.]
2)Why is it necessary to keep the ocean highways guarded? How did England become policeman of the seas in the Great War?
3)What products does New Zealand send to England?
4)Describe a visit to the Lake District. What mountains and lakes could you see?  
5)Write what you can about Drake and his "Golden Hind."


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