To kick off our continent exploration unit students first got set up with some papers and a place to store them. Just like for Holidays Around the World from December, I gave students a manila folder so they could decorate it and use it for storage. Stowed inside to start were a blank world map and reading packet. With those things situated we were ready to begin! Love the look of this resource? Check out my blog post Seven Continent Exploration for a link to the TpT store where I found it.
I thought it would be best to start with the continent most familiar to students, North America. First things first, students needed to identify where on the world map they could find North America. Together we colored in the continent and coordinated it with the key at the bottom of the page. As students colored we identified the countries that make up North America and I pointed them out on a more detailed map in the room.
With maps colored and ready, we then read aloud the information page. What I loved about the page was the way it included a lot of non fiction text features we talk about in reading. Students had the opportunity to name the different features, then we found a way to improve the page by adding captions to the pictures after they read.
As students read aloud they also had the chance to practice another important reading skill, highlighting. I modeled for students how to highlight only important words in a paragraph so they pop off the page. It lead to a great discussion that ended in the idea that less is more when highlighting.
The rest of the week was filled with sharing pictures from places I have been in the US and Canada, as well as watching short videos from Travel Kids which generated discussions about what students saw and learned.
Using North America as a launching continent was nice. Students were familiar with a huge section of the continent, the US. It also gave me a chance to see what additions and changes I wanted to make to the way I presented materials. I could then make changes before moving on to South America, where students would need more information since it is an unfamiliar continent.
Overall, students seemed to enjoy the lessons and learned new information about North America. Many students had done some traveling with families to areas in North America, helping to make connections and deeper understanding. Students were eager to share stories from trips to New York City, Florida, Caribbean Islands and other places.
I already know there are things I will do differently next year when I teach this part of the unit again. But that is true of anything, and one of the reasons I love teaching, nothing is stagnate. Reflection after lessons helps to decide how to evolve what you’re teaching.