Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Where in the World is Iraq?

Remember the old computer game and TV show called "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego"? Sorry for putting that song in your head! Today I played my own limited version of the game with my students.

Probably in the lifetime of my students, the one foreign country that has been mentioned and talked about the most is Iraq. It's on the news, in the presidential elections, in discussions at home (hopefully) and some students may even have a family member or relative in Iraq. So I tried something today inspired by the book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56
by Rafe Esquith. I gave each student a blank world map. I told them that I was curious if anyone could locate the country of Iraq on the map (after discussing why it was so important). I told them to put a dot on the country that they thought was Iraq.

I watched as they "scrutinized" (one of our vocabulary words this week) the map. I had to stop the class as 1/2 of them had placed the map sideways as it was printed and I had to orient the map so they could recognize the world. The students started to raise their hands. About four children located Iraq somewhere in Canada, one person had it in Australia, and three had it in South America. Two more had it in Russia and someone else had it in the Sea of Japan. Others found Iraq in Europe, Africa, and the closest anyone came was India.

It was almost lunchtime and I desperately wanted to let them look at a map and find Iraq. But I also knew they might take the maps and see if any adults in the school could find the country. I didn't want to put any of my fellow staff on the spot so I told them we would find Iraq after lunch.

I printed out a fact sheet on Iraq from WorldAtlas.com and cut and pasted the information that was important including some pictures and maps of the country and its place in the world. Mrs. Kluger also donated some extra Time For Kids issues that had information on Iraq and a beautiful full color map that was easier to view.

Then I asked them to find Iraq on the map. Even though we have spent the last couple of weeks trying to draw maps of the states within different regions of the United States (they are having a hard time visualizing and representing the states on a self-drawn map) they still had a hard time locating Iraq. Now the map they were using was very small but with a "keen"(another vocabulary word this week)eye I thought they should find it. It took over 10 minutes for most everyone to find Iraq on the map. They would come check with me and I would say look to the west or east, or I would tell them that had found a bordering country, or that they were in the wrong continet and this presented them with a new challenge to think about as they scanned the maps.

Once they all found Iraq they highlighted the country and I gave them a new blank map. They are now going to see if they can find anyone at home who can locate Iraq on the map. Maybe they can do some "elucidation" (a third vocabulary word, do I get extra credit?) tonight as they clarify Iraq's location with family and friends. This was a fun, short, and surprising lesson.

We need to do more map work to find out where places are in this world. Where in the world...indeed!

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