As a part of our summer school term, we decided that rather than delving into our history or science studies, we would take a little world tour, stopping at selected countries on each continent. Before doing that, though, I wanted my girls to have some basic understanding of geography–terms, basic map skills, etc. These are the best of the resources we’ve used:
Maps & Globes by Jack Knowlton provides a nice overview of the history of maps and types of maps. It is almost textbookish in its tone and approach, which may or may not be a bad thing, depending on your philosophy. I think that it is sometimes useful to present material in a straightforward way, and this book does the trick. Harriet Barton‘s illustrations are colorful, and the maps are age-appropriate and well done. At 7 and 5 1/2, my girls might be just a tiny bit too young for all the material presented here, but we’re definitely keeping our copy for a future resource.
Also by Jack Knowlton and Harriett Barton, Geography from A to Z: A Picture Glossary is another excellent reference book that is just right for the elementary students. As the subtitle indicates, it’s simply an alphabetical listing of geographical terms and their definitions. Important words within the definitions are in boldface type. The definitions are just detailed enough to provide the necessary information but not so detailed as to overwhelm. Each definition is accompanied by an illustration. This one is a keeper, too.
If you’re looking for a geography resource to use with even younger students, Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney is the book for you. This is an actual storybook in which the little girl (“me”) places herself in space–first in her room, then in her house, then on her street, and so on. Each time, she draws or shows the appropriate map to demonstrate her location. Next, she works backwards, using the maps to “find” herself again. Annette Cable‘s illustrations are very kid-friendly. We’ve enjoyed several of Joan Sweeney’s books from this series, including Me and My Amazing Body and Me and the Measure of Things (both linked to my reviews). I think Me on the Map might be the best of them all. If I had to pick one book to use with preschool or young elementary students, this one would be it.
Another great storybook for younger crowd is As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman. It is simpler than Me on the Map, with less text, and it’s also less complex in that the maps presented are really just simple, labeled pictures. The idea here is that several animals are represented in their natural habitats, and the story ends with the moon overlooking all the places, which are all connected. This one is perfect for preschoolers.
When I first started thinking about this geography unit, I did a little research online (of course!) and read several threads over at The Well-Trained Mind forums about geography resources for young students. This Evan-Moor activity book, Beginning Geography, is one that popped up again and again on people’s lists, so I bought it. It’s really meant for classroom use, but it works well for one-on-one (or two-on-one, in my case) tutoring, too. So far we’ve worked through several of the basic geography pages and one activity with the continent of Africa, and my girls love it. It’s just right (even bordering on too easy) for Lulu, and Louise can do most of it with a little bit of help. It never ceases to amaze me at how much my girls like workbooks (unless they involve handwriting, then it’s another story. . . ), but they do. I’ll admit that they go against the grain for me, but for certain skills, I think they’re useful. If you’re not workbook-phobic, I give this one a two thumbs up.
In addition to a really great children’s wall map (like the one I’ve linked over there on the right, although ours came from Target at back-to-school time, and it didn’t come with a book, alas), we have also used The Usborne Essential Atlas of the World. We got it way back when I became an Usborne consultant (which I admit I only did for the discount–I hate selling things!), but we’ve only really started looking at it. It’s a good resource for young students–it’s small and very colorful. It divides the world into continents and then more specifically into regions, which is perfect for the way we’re organizing our study. Included at the back is lots of additional information and stuff: world records (kids love those!), time zones, government information (definitions, not current information, so the book won’t grow outdated), and a gazetteer. I think this is a good little atlas to start off with, but I’m open to suggestions. Do you have a favorite atlas for young students? Please share. (Oh, and if you’d like to see a better picture of our wall map, go here. I realize the picture linked from Amazon is a wee bit on the small side. 🙂 )
I also excavated the puzzle cubby in the school room and found our old world map puzzle. I gave it to the girls to work on yesterday, and Lulu did a little bit, but they were more than happy to put it away last night unfinished. It’s a little too detailed and complex for them to do alone, so I think today I need to make the time to sit down with them and work on it. I think that’s a great geography exercise, don’t you?
The one thing that’s missing from our study that I really want to include are some fun geography songs. I’d like to find something catchy that helps us remember geography facts. Any suggestions?
Of course, we’ve been reading lots of other good books that relate to world geography but are more cultural than technical; these will get their own special post. 🙂 Our first stop this week was Africa, so look for yet another post with some good African resources coming soon!
I will be linking this post to Favorite Resource This Week @ learning ALL the time.
Have a wonderful Wednesday!