Reading Response: Zarrillo, Chapter 11


Zarrillo provides a clear and succinct explanation for how geography should be incorporated into the modern social studies lesson and to what extent it should be incorporated. He begins by providing a clear and broad definition of geography and how it can include more than simple memorization of places and locations. From there, he presents research tying together the developmental processes of children and their capabilities to understand and comprehend geography. Zarrillo then moves from content to process, explaining methods for teaching children how to scaffold children to be able to read maps proficiently and how to create different kinds of maps effectively. Zarrillo concludes this chapter discussing different ways to integrate technology and geology by using computer-based geographic information systems.

Helpful Ideas and Examples

  • The activities at the beginning of the chapter were extremely helpful! I love getting new ideas that inspire and expand what is beginning to enter my understanding.
  • About when Zarrillo started talking about map symbols (page 283), I began to realize that geography is the literacy portion of social studies. Just like in learning how to read English, one must successfully engage in decoding, fluency, and comprehension to be proficient. The same thing is with geography! Reading map symbols is the decoding part of social studies and plays an important part in the comprehension portion of social studies. Without geography (and map symbols more specifically), social studies can easily become a confusing, nonsensical mess, especially for a young mind. Helping to develop literacy regarding geography can unlock unlimited potential in regards to social studies!

Thoughtful and Authentic Question

On page 290, Zarrillo outlines the pre-implementation planning stage of a GIS Project/Unit. His first step makes sense to me. His second step doesn’t not make sense, but I’m curious as to why; what is Zarrillo’s reasoning for using additional sources? I’m not questioning the method, I just didn’t see an explanation/justification for this step and I’m curious. What are the benefits? Are there any drawbacks?


I went into this chapter thinking I was “good” at geography. Then I read the different skills involved in geography. Nope. My elementary teachers skipped a big chunk of geography instruction. I was “good” at geography because I could easily remember visuals and maps were exactly that – a visual representation. But ask my elementary or middle school self to draw conclusions based on data represented in a map – I definitely missed out on that skill.

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods

Class Notes – Stations

Station 1-G

Sharpen those Geography Skills – start a document called Geography Skills – Do #1 OR #2 depending on your preference and then continue on to #3 and #4.

  1. Early Elem focus – Adventure Island – complete the activity. Take a screen shot or a snip of the final screen and save it to your document.
    • Would you use this game in your classroom? Why or why not?
  2. Middle and Upper Level – Geography Pods
    • Be sure to go to the link in the lesson for GapMinder and try the bubble tool – try tracing a few countries through time
    • Would you use portions of this lesson or the gapminder in your class? Why or why not?
      • YES!!!! The geography lesson was really neat. I really liked the drawing a map from memory after certain intervals – great way to build visual memory skills and mental map skills.
      • The gapminder is really cool, but it would need quite a bit of support and direct/specific instructions to be effective.
  3. Latitude and longitude
    • Try one of the following latitude and longitude games. Take a snip or a screen shot of your final score and include it in your word doc.
    • Would you use this game in your classroom? Why or why not?
      • Yes! Fun and interactive  

Station 2-G:

How well do you know your states and capitals?

  • Create up a word doc called States and Capitals
  • States & Capitals
  • Test your skill at both states and capitals
  • In the column for Capitals
    • Try the Beginner level (1) and one other level (2, 3, or 4)
    • Take a screenshot or a snip of your final score for each round
  • In the column for States
    • Try the Beginner level (1) and one other level (2, 3, or 4)
    • Take a screenshot or a snip of your final score for each round

Station 3-G:

Fix the 5 Themes

  • Find a partner and form a group.
  • Each of you create a word doc called Fix the 5 Themes
  • Locate the 5 Themes Power Point in Moodle and take a close look at the whole thing. Answer the following questions in your notes:
    • What do you notice?
      • Boring, colors are not engaging. Looks like a business seminar lecture, their version of PowerPoint needs to be updated, too many words, font is too small, just plain not interesting, pictures are too small and scattered, aside from bullet points there isn’t much organization.
    • How relevant or engaging would the learning be?
      • Not relevant and not engaging
    • Is there a clear and authentic Big Idea or Essential question?
      • No
    • Choose one of the five themes from the ppt to fix
      • Assign the roles below (each person takes 2 roles)
        • Partner: Katie
      • Individually brainstorm ideas based on the roles you selected. Note those behind the roles you were assigned.  ROLES:
        • Big Idea person – come up with a second big idea/essential question (besides the theme itself) that can help tie the lesson together.
          • Big Idea: Oh the Places You’ll Go!
          • Essential Question:
            • How do we find where we are?
            • How do we give clear directions?
        • Inquiry Expert – this person will make sure that there is at least one opportunity for students to construct the information before being told it
          • Students will work in two groups. The goal of both groups is the same: To get a student to be able to find an object. One student from each group will go out into the hallway. They will not be able to see where their group places the object. The first group’s person will be blindfolded, and the group will have to guide them to the object (Relative location: In front of you, to the right, etc). The second group will have their desks set up in rows. They will hide the object in one of the desks. When the person comes back in, they will need to figure out how to get that person to find the object. They can either say the name of the person’s desk that it’s in, or they can describe based on how many desks forward and to the left or right it is. This will convey latitude and longitude, or something similar to a street address.
        • Relevancy Expert – this person will make sure there is a direct connection that students can make between the topic and their lives
          • Name 4-5 places where you spend most of your time (school, home, church, friend’s house, grandparents, etc…)
          • Create a mental map for where each of these places are located
          • Describe relative location
            • Draw a picture with landmarks
          • Look up actual locations: Modify Mental Map
          • Give Directions to each place in one or two of the following ways:
            • Create a video giving directions by landmarks or by distance
            • Create GPS directions using street names (can talk in an accent if desired)
        • Assessment Expert – this person will make sure there is a diagnostic assessment at the beginning to quickly see what students know or don’t know, a formative assessment, and a post test.
          • Diagnostic: I will show students a “You are Here” map from a mall. They will write on a Post-It note a description of the location that the “You are Here” arrow is pointing to.
          • Formative: Students will create a T-Chart recording their observations from the inquiry activity. They will then connect their observations to what they learn about absolute and relative location.
          • Post-Test: Students will apply what they have learned about absolute and relative location by looking at the same “You are Here” map and describing the absolute and relative location. They will also evaluate which one is easier, harder, and more useful in that situation. They will also offer an alternative way to describe it. 

  Station 4-G: Mental Map

  • What do you know about Michigan?
  • WITHOUT looking online or anywhere else – take a blank piece of paper and draw (to the best of your ability) a map of Michigan?
  • Add to it any detail that you know (WITHOUT looking it up): political features (cities, counties, etc.) physical features (mountains, rivers, lakes, vegetation types), economic (resources, crops) and historic (religions, events, wars, people groups, Native American tribes, current events)
  • Go to World History Connected and read the article. Why does the author think producing mental maps is better than doing fill in the blank maps?
  • Example using Africa and how maps improve after study.

Station 5-G: Map who you are

  • Take a blank piece of paper.
  • Answer the following questions on the back of your paper.
    • What city were you born in?
    • What is your last name?
    • Who is the favorite pet you ever had?
    • Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?
    • What is your favorite family tradition?
    • What is an important thing that has happened in your life?
    • What is something you are talented at?
    • What is your favorite sports team?
    • If you could go anywhere where would it be? What is the geography like there?
  • Incorporate your answers to the above questions into a map that depicts your life. Represent your answers with different land features or locations on the map. Create symbols and a key that helps explain the locations.
  • Check out Art Teacher for more examples and a rubric.

 Station 6-G: Would you use this lesson?

  • National Geographic Map Skills
  • Select the Grade Level area you are most interested in teaching. Each grade level has 5+ lessons.
    • Grade Level: 2nd-5th
  • Open a word document and call it National Geographic.
  • Select 3 lessons and summarize them.
    • Lesson: Many Ways to Name A Place
      • Students analyze maps of places from neighborhood to world and then create maps for the locations of their own homes at multiple scales
    • Lesson: Analyze a Community Map
      • Students make observations and gather information over several days or sessions. Then they summarize reasons why public services are located where they are.
    • Lesson: Mapping Landforms
      • Students analyze landform maps of a state and the United States. They research and map states’ landforms and then create a display.
  • Out of the three lessons you selected; which ones would you use and why?
    • Lesson: Analyze a Community Map
      • I like the structure – it starts with identifying and discussing student’s background knowledge. It moves to walking around the neighborhood – a primary source – to revise their mental maps. They continue to expand their map area using GIS. Student Discovery focused.
  • How would you tweak?

Station 1-T: Infographics gone wild!

  • PiktoChart
  • Venngage
  • Easel
  • Visme
  • Try one of the above infographics sites.
  • Create an info graphic based on any one of the lessons you have written or on a social studies topic.
  • The infographic must include at least 3 different elements 

Station 2-T: Wobble with Weebly but don’t fall down!

  1. Look over the lessons you have created for this class. Pick a lesson where you had students utilizing documents or resources online. Your task is to create a website where students can go to in order to access the resources without having to search the web for them.
  2. Go to for a free trial.
  3. Create a website that has three tabs using the titles below. OR use tab titles that work with your lesson
    1. Resources
    2. Instructions
    3. More stuff
  4. In the resources section include at least three resources that your students can use. Either as links or as downloadable articles.
  5. Add some graphics and pictures to your website

Station 3-T: Cause & Effect Graphic Organizer

  • Create a cause & effect graphic organizer that you could use in your classroom
  • It must contain at least three different places for students to fill in
  • Be sure the words Cause and Effect appear on the organizer
  • Add your own special touch that reflects your classroom.

Station 4-T: Excelling!

  1. Open the Excel spreadsheet called Station 1.
  2. If you don’t know how to complete these skills, use Google to help you out.
  3. Complete the following tasks:
    1. Reorder the students in alphabetic order by last name
    2. Bold the standard titles
    3. Highlight Hannah Cruise’s name and scores in yellow
    4. Insert a row in the right spot for a new student – Amil Shaquar. Amil received a score of 5, 7, 2, 3, 8 in Standards 1-5.
    5. Create a row at the end of the data that gives an average score for each standard
    6. Create a column at the end of the data that gives the total score (sum) for each student
    7. Create a bar graph that includes all 5 standards and shows the average score for the class by standard. Name the Chart Standards
    8. Create a pie chart for Ralph Moore that depicts his scores for each of the standards.
  4. Print your spreadsheet and hand it in. Make sure the charts are not split in half on the paper.

 Station 5-T: And the survey says…

Station 6-T: It’s a Funny Life

Station 7-T: Bring your game face

  • Use a jeopardy, wheel of fortune, smarter than a 5th grader or other game template to create a review game for your students.
  • Use a topic from one of your lesson plans.
  • Get your categories in and at least five questions or items for just one of the categories.

Station 8-T: – ABC Explorers

  • Go to All about Explorers 
  • Open up a word doc called All About Explorers
    • Click the link called Treasure Hunts
      • Conduct at least three treasure hunts on three different explorers each with different color dots – select at least one Purple dotted explorer one Brownish dot and one Red dot (you may do more if you like). Be sure to read the whole article on the explorer and answer the questions from the treasure hunt in your document.
      • Christopher Columbus (blue)
        • When and where was Christopher Columbus Born?
          • All About Explorers: 1951, Sydney, Australia
          • Zoom Explorers: N/A
        • In what year did Christopher Columbus set sail on his first voyage?
          • All About Explorers: N/A
          • Zoom Explorers: 1942
        • When did Columbus die?
          • All About Explorers: 1906, Valladolid, Spain
          • Zoom Explorers: N/A
        • What were the similarities and differences in the information you found on the two sites?
          • The “All about Explorers” website gave more personal information whereas the “Zoom Explorers” website gave exploration details without the personal information.
      • Vasco da Gama (green)
        • When and where was Vasco da Gama born?
          • All About Explorers: 1460, Sines, Germany
          • Zoom Explorers: 1460
        • How many ships did da Gama take on his second voyage to India?
          • All About Explorers: 3 ships, Challenger, the Discovery, and the Enterprise
          • Zoom Explorers: 20 ships (anticipated problems from Muslim traders)
        • What important event happened to da Gama in 1524?
          • All About Explorers: named the Governor of India and remained in power for more than twenty years until his death.
          • Zoom Explorers: Vasco da Gama of an illness in India on December 24, 1524.
        • What were the similarities and differences in the information you found on the two sites?
          • Stark difference in facts. The one website claimed da Gama sailed 3 ships on his second trip, the second website claimed he took 20 ships. The one website claimed he was named governor of India in 1524, the other claimed he died. This could be extremely confusing for students!
      • Francisco Pizarro (red)
        • When and where was Francisco Pizarro born?
          • All About Explorers: 1478, Trujillo, Spain
          • Zoom Explorers: 1478
        • What coast of Central and South America did Pizarro explore?
          • All About Explorers: N/A
          • Zoom Explorers: Coast of the Pacific Ocean; West Coast
        • Why was Pizarro assassinated?
          • All About Explorers: Atahaulpa’s cousin killed him because he was jealous of his power and wealth
          • Zoom Explorers: his captain wanted to seize Lima for its riches.
        • What were the similarities and differences in the information you found on the two sites?
          • Details were not super clear; the “stories” of Pizzaro told by both websites made the information more interesting to read, but at what cost? Inference of history without the foundation of facts can lead to a distorted perspective.
    • Click the For Teachers link and check out the Lessons listed. Look at one and answer the following questions:
      • What do you like about them?
        • Just Because It’s Out There Doesn’t Mean it’s Good
          • Students work in groups to collaborate – especially important in discovery learning; students like to have another mind working with them to make it easier to take a “risk” when it comes to learning.
          • Teaching Digital Citizenship is always good!
          • Discussion is good – helps verify student discoveries and provides teacher with an idea of student discovery.
            • Lists key points for the teacher to bring out – student-based lesson
          • Focused and controlled – this is such an important lesson, but it would be extremely difficult to teach this lesson in an effective manner without the controlled environment – otherwise students could easily be lead down a bad path on the internet – yikes!
      • What portions of each would you use? Why?


What new information was learned?

My mind was opened up to a world of possibilities regarding technology integration with geography. Sure, I knew the resources were out there somewhere, but I hadn’t thought twice about “hunting them down.”

How has the material/experience affected me?

I’m excited about the potential these resources can bring, but I’m also slightly apprehensive – while I was going through some of these activities, I found myself skimming through simply to find the right answers or to fill in the blanks – while I can easily justify this for myself every now and again, I recognize that I won’t get much out of the activity if I’m not actively engaged in it – I want my students to be actively engaged as opposed to simply seeking out answers just to fill in the blanks, turn in the answers, and get a good grade.

How has it challenged my thinking?

I’m challenged to make more of an effort to incorporate specific technological resources into my unit and lesson plans.

Go Back: Extra Reading: Social Studies Methods


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