Longitude/Latitude Differentiation

The first week of school is always a fun week.  I’d rather not have to act like a fool during the pep rally on the first day, but every teacher in the school is required to do that.  I’m terrible with new names and since I’m not coaching this year I have two more classes of kids to memorize, but that’s fun in an odd way.  This year is a little more challenging because our high school was introducing their one to one iPad program which means the tech integration specialists were swarming to handle any difficulties teachers or students might have.  This also meant that we at the middle schools didn’t get the opportunity to set up all the student login’s handled the first week, so I went the low-tech route on my introductory concept which is longitude and latitude.

Longitude and latitude is one of the few skills that I get to teach in my social studies classes.  Most of my kids have never used this to find absolute location, so it’s fun to teach a new concept and allow my kids to learn how to use it practically.  After having an introductory conversation about how their phones and most location based technology actually uses longitude/latitude to find your position, we go over the basic method of finding a spot on a map.  This includes finding the latitude on the side of the page and the longitude on the top or bottom of the page and tracing the lines to find the intersection.  The first day we spend most of the time practicing and me answering questions about the maps we use.  At the end of class, I give the students an exit ticket that has four basic questions:

  1. Give me the longitude and latitude of Ft. Worth, TX
  2. Latitude runs north/south or east/west
  3. On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you in your answers?
  4. Would you be willing to teach someone how to do long/lat?

Once the kids are done and the day is over I quickly sort the cards into piles:

  • Pile #1 – This pile is for all the cards that got #1 and #2 correct, were confident in the answers, and were willing to teach.
  • Pile #2 – This pile is for all the cards that got #1 and #2 correct, but were either not super confident or were not willing to teach.
  • Pile #3 – This pile is for kids that were wrong on either #1 or #2 or were not confident at all.
  • Pile #4 – This pile is for kids that were way off.

I match a person in Pile #1 and #3 for collaborative groups for the following day so that the kid who has grasped long/lat a little quicker can help his classmate that needs a little extra help.  I partner the Pile #2 kids together because they have the concept, but don’t necessarily want to teach the concept to someone who doesn’t understand.  I help the kids in Pile #4 since they do not grasp the material as well as they need to.  With this system I get to help the struggling learners while allowing the stronger students in class to help their classmates in learning.

The next day in class we have a few practice problems to work on.  when they have them checked to be correct they start creating one of three products to show their mastery of he concept:

  1. Create a song that reminds people how to keep the differences between longitude and latitude straight.
  2. Create a poster that visually reminds students how to find a location using longitude and latitude.
  3. Think of 5 careers that would frequently use longitude and latitude, tell me how you think they use it, and then predict what the modern world would be like if longitude and latitude hadn’t been invented.

This was also the first assignment I gave narrative feedback for in my ROLE classroom this year.  I found that my kids wanted to do their best and took the feedback well.  Some groups were still in process at the end of the day on Friday, so we’ll be finishing it up on Tuesday.  I think it was a great first lesson, especially since we didn’t have the opportunity to use technology at all for the week.

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