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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sketch-A-Map in the Classroom Part 2: Social Studies and English are Friends

This is a continuation of a discussion on a simple but powerful, free online resource, Sketch-A-Map (  In my previous blog post, I shared one possible use in English Language Arts (ELA) class (

Cross-curricular collaboration is a powerful tool as well.  Students see connections to their studies and see teamwork modeled for them among the teachers.  Middle school students say, “You mean you talk to Mrs. Smith…about school stuff!?!”  Collaborative work is a part of our professional world.  It makes sense to show our students some best practices.  Not to mention, as my mother always said, “It’s nice to share with others.”  While my students in English class were working on a writing assignment that was part research, part creative on Indian culture, my team Social Studies Teacher wanted to show the impact of the Ganges River, one of the most polluted rivers.  How important is water in this region? 

A quick zoom over to India and a look at the world topo maps, students can explain why this river is significant, not only for its religious importance.  What other water sources are available to this region?  If you were creating cities, where would you place them based on the landscape?  Now, change the base map to streets and compare where the real cities are.  How well did you place cities?  Could some cities’ water resources be strained?  Why?

Once we examine these items in Sketch-A-Map, we have opened our students’ curious minds to “why”!  Now we can make an easy transition to GIS analysis to examine world population and trends in cities to offer proof for our hypotheses.  Not only do my students know where India, the Ganges River and major cities are located, but they also have some grounded knowledge of their significance…information that they are less-likely to forget when assessed.  Give students the connections they need to imprint content and increase their analytical skills!

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