In September I wrote about trying a new method for how I include the study of Current Events in my high school Social Studies course. The biggest change to my previous methodology was a real focus on plotting our news stories on a world map, and identifying the location by longitude and latitude co-ordinates. The “testing” of our current events discussions was also a more formal method than I had recently been using.
The first thing that I noticed with students in September was how greatly deficient most students were when it came to knowing what to do with latitude and longitude. The first day, given two coordinates, over half the students in each class could not accurately locate the spot; many did not even know how to begin to guess. It was interesting to see them help each other as we practiced this in the early weeks of the semester.
The second thing that I noticed was that overall, many students just have a poor sense of geography. On day one, for example, several high school students could not identify the continent of South America. And while many indicated at the end of the semester that their understanding of where places are in the world had improved somewhat to significantly, many still are dazed and confused. Some still couldn’t tell you which coast of North America California could be found on. Some still could not identify where the Middle East was located, even though this was a semester where Syria was in the news repeatedly.
So, a new semester starts next week. What will my Geography + News Experiment look like?
- I will continue the format for a 2nd semester.
- At the very beginning of the semester, I will have them do a map where they label the continents and watch a video about how latitude and longitude work — yes, this is high school.
- I will incorporate some days in the semester where THEY are responsible for researching the most important news stories and writing an effective summary.
- I may change the testing format. The process was overwhelming to some students the first time they saw the test, and although most were very successful once they caught on to the format, the overall time it took to administer the tests was greater than I had anticipated. Stuck at time point on how to find the right balance…
So the experiment to increase general geographic knowledge along with an increased understanding of national and world events continues….