Do Now: Name the 3 largest cities in the North in the 1800's.
What I thought would be a quick Do Now to get my 9th graders settle down and activate some prior knowledge from yesterday's lesson turned into a spontaneous 60 minute conversation ranging from the compass rose to the continental divide. It was one of the more interesting, exciting and enlightening periods I've had all year.
As he was working on the aforementioned Do Now, one student started calling out answers such as "Mexico" and "Georgia". Although this student can sometimes be a joker, his answers made me pause, so before we reviewed the Do Now I asked the class if, when they just guess apparently random answers, they are serious or not. When many responded they were serious (especially the student that guessed Mexico) I knew that I needed to slow things down and take the time to review some very basic information that I (wrongly) assumed that 9th graders would know.
I started by asking them to draw the compass rose in their notebook which most, but not all, got correct. We started to discuss the map of the United States, the compass rose and the geographical locations of major states and cities. We tied in our Essential Question for the unit ("How does where we live affect how we live?") by talking about how New Yorkers might view Maryland as being a Southern state, but those in Maryland don't. We were also able to touch on what I feel is the biggest historical understanding for them to take from my class: the seeds of the Civil War were sown with the geographical differences between the North and the South and the societies that were created as a result.
I learned a tremendous amount during first period today, including....
-My students know very little about basic geographical concepts, including directions and maps, a fact that is even worse to me since I use to spend the first month of my 6th grade class (and to a lesser extent my 7th grade) on geography.
-It's a lot of fun to just throw a lesson out and go with what the students are offering. It takes a little maneuvering but once you get the conversation going, the students natural curiosity will take over and all you have to do is jump in every so often to move the conversation along.
-Never assume students know anything. I've learned this lesson before but I obviously didn't learn it well enough. Tomorrow's lesson? Mapping the United States. Break out the atlases!
-Teaching is the best.