Wednesday, April 17, 2013

UGH! Don't send Jay Leno...

Every year I do a project to help make sure my students know some key geography related to our home state.  We need to be able to name the states and bodies of water that border us . . . our capital city and a few other key cities . . . our 3 main rivers . . . and our one really big lake.  We also make a key and a compass rose to add to it (all review, I might add).

To kick it off today, I asked the students what they remembered about our mapping unit earlier this year.  I see a few weak hand raises but not much else--so I decide to help out a little bit.  "What can you tell me about the globe and the continents and oceans?"  A few students had a few things to say, but I could tell things weren't going well.

I pulled up a map of North America on the Smartboard and traced the border of the United States. I blatantly asked, "This is our country and we call it . . ."

North America

Before you pass out (like I nearly did), rest assured that a few students DID chime in with, "No, that's not North America, that's the United States!  But the damage was done--I felt like a complete failure as a teacher.  I was also grateful that Jay Leno wasn't around to mock our horrible geography skills.

So back to the basics we went.  Again.  Never Eat Soggy Waffles.  Canada borders us to the north, Mexico to the south, The Atlantic Ocean to the East, the Pacific Ocean to the West.  We reviewed the difference between continent, country, state, and city. Basically, I redid a one month unit in about 15 minutes.

On to the INTENDED lesson!  Focusing on the word "border", we set out to create our map of our state and its bordering states and bodies of water.  We started by making "mini" compass roses to stick on later . . . after discussing that we should probably wait to see where a good location would be.

We also made map keys--also to be put on later.  We kept these pretty simple.

We then used large cutouts of our state and glued them to the center of our page and drew in the bordering states.  It was tricky for some students to understand the idea that only PART of the state could fit on the page.  I cut a "window" out of construction paper and centered it over Wisconsin on our U.S. map.  This seemed to help.  I also put a sample paper up on the white board and drew the REST of our bordering states on the board so they could see only part fit on the page.

We talked at length about organization and work quality.  We brainstormed ways to make sure we didn't miss anything--most students either crossed items off or used checkmarks.

Slowly but surely our maps started to take shape . . . bordering states and bodies of water?  CHECK!  Our three main rivers?  CHECK!

Once we finished putting on all our key elements, it was time to color.  We discussed how we wouldn't want to use blue for states--that we should reserve that for water.  Again, we talked about QUALITY!

Here is a final version!  

Thanks for stopping by!  One more thing--need any multi-step word problems?  Watch later tonight for a new set being posted.  It's a new resource format, and I'd love feedback!  This set is for grades 3-4 with another set for grades 4-5 in the works.  

Update:  Here is the link if you are interested!

Have a great night!


  1. I hate those moments when you think the kids have something and then realize some of them don't! I think every teacher has those moments.
    The finished maps look great.
    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

    1. Isn't that the truth? Sigh. Just a reminder that we can talk and talk and doesn't mean they are understanding! Thanks for the kind words!

  2. The final map looks great! Happy to find another fifth grade blog to follow! :) I'll be checking back soon!
    Creating Lifelong Learners

    1. Hi Brandee! Thanks for stopping by! I technically teach 4th, but most of my ideas are pretty adaptable for 5th! Glad you found me!

  3. Nice maps! Nice preview too :)


    1. The preview is mediocre. On TpT I put a "real" preview with samples of some of the pages so people can see what it really is!