5 Things We Think Middle School Students Should Know But Don't #2: How to Use Latitude and Longitude
Using latitude and longitude is a 5th or 6th grade standard here in Michigan where I teach, and I imagine it's around that age in most other places too, yet, every single year this winds up being a major road block. There are usually 5 to 10 students in each class who can do it quickly and correctly every time from day one, and maybe 6 to 8 who just need a quick reminder. This leaves about half of my class each year that I have to start from scratch with.
It's actually the same problem that exists with finding reading materials that challenge everyone. There's that small chunk of students way ahead - the reading/history dorks who probably already know all of the core content, the large chunk in the middle who are ready to go, and that far behind chunk that really needs intensive instruction.
So, what do we do? I devote an entire day to basic map skills using a Google Slide presentation that I am offering here and at my TpT store for FREE that both serves as a quick reminder to that middle group while introducing longitude, latitude and other map-related concepts to those who are far behind. Then, and more importantly, throughout the year, I intentionally begin or end most classes with map activities that use latitude and longitude as well as other map reading skills. I also occasionally use topical stand alone activities like my Hurricane Tracker resource for enrichment and additional practice.
Oh, one last thing before I share my resources. My wife is an elementary teacher, so I feel I have to add this. I also teach all my students, "Latitude is fatitude" and make them stick out their bellies while doing the "discount double check" motion. It's hilarious.
So, click the links below to check out the resources I mentioned in this post, and don't forget to visit and follow my TpT store for lots of other great social studies resources!
5 Things We Think Our Students Know But They Don't #1: The Difference Between Continents, Countries & States
The first of the top 5 things middle schooler's don't know for Social Studies that I wish they did is the difference between a continent, a country and a state. Every year, when we do our review of basic geography, someone invariably says, "Wait, Australia is a continent? I thought it was a country."
"Oh, so then North America's a country?"
"But we're called Americans."
Every. Single. Year.
It's almost like it's a rite of passage one year of students passes down to the next every August or something.
So, how can this gap be quickly filled? The first link below is for a FREE presentation using Google Slides that will teach your students the difference between continents, countries and states in a quick and fun way that even includes a game! The second link is for a set of three posters you can print and display in your classroom as visual reminders for your students throughout the year. These two FREE resources are only available here, so if you know any other teachers who would benefit from them, please encourage them to visit and follow my blog, and don't forget to visit and follow my TpT store for lots of great Social Studies products!
5 Things We Think Middle School Social Studies Students Know That They Actually Don't & What To Do About It
It happens every year. You know it's coming, but it still manages to catch you off guard every time. Your students (and not just one or two) don't know or don't know how to do something so basic it stops you in your tracks, and you probably utter those familiar words, "You should have learned that last year," or, in the case of working a pencil sharpener in a reasonable amount of time, in kindergarten. Seriously, Ethan, how many cranks until it's sharp enough?
It's probably not their fault, and it isn't productive to blame elementary teachers anyway. To borrow a phrase from Truman, "The buck stops here." So, what do we do? Do we scrap our scope and sequence and just teach elementary content?
No. Although, when I taught 8th grade American History, my students loved watching PBS' Liberty's Kids. The answer is to fill the gaps while moving forward with new content. I know it sounds like I'm suggesting learning to walk while we're running, but it's actually easier than that. Over the next month or so, I will be blogging about each of the 5 things and giving you some FREE resources to get started!
So, make sure you continue (or start) to follow this blog to learn more about my Top 5 Things I Think Middle Students Should Know But Don't & What to Do About It.
I'm an 18 year veteran teacher that loves teaching, coaching, writing, and my family.