I am having so much fun with my 5th graders this week, I may let them play with Google Earth from now until June.

I’m doing reference units with my 4th and 5th graders. The 4th graders started back before the holidays with an introduction to atlases, almanacs, and encyclopedias. It took a while because of assemblies, weather, etc., but I basically gave them a week to play with each of those 3 reference sources. They worked in teams of 4 and just flipped through the World Almanac for Kids 2008¬†and¬†whatever atlases we have (I really need to buy new atlases next year). They had to write down 10 cool things they learned from those 2 sources that they didn’t know before. Then when we got to encyclopedias, I had them compare and contrast our print World Book to World Book online. They had to write pros and cons for each source, and we talked about why it’s important to know what kind of resources have the best stuff when doing research. At the end of my unit for those 3, we had a reference scavenger hunt. They worked in teams and had to answer a series of questions by picking the right reference source and then finding the right answer. That was crazy fun, and they did a great job with it. I had stations set up all over the library, so they had to move around and think about which book would have the right answers (and they all learned where Chad is, which I thought was kind of fun).

So the 5th graders have just started their intermediate reference unit. I’m trying to pace the stuff I’m doing this year so that next year my students will be ready and I can build on what I’m doing now. So some of my 5th graders still need an intro to these sources, but I’m trying to make things a little harder for them. And we’ve started with atlases. Last week they got a series of questions to answer using print atlases. This week I set them loose on Google Earth, and boy howdy! We are having a ball, so much fun that I almost want to put the 4th graders on it right now. Forget waiting until next year for my carefully crafted plans to come together!

I had as much fun making up their worksheet as they had answering the questions. They had to find their home addresses, our school, Times Square, the pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the London Eye, and some other cool stuff (download it and look them up, it’s seriously awesome). We’ll be working with Google Earth for at least 2 weeks, and I love seeing the looks on their faces when they see what their house and our school look like from satellite photos. I also showed them how the photos flatten out and look crazy when you zoom all the way in. They loved that. They’re already asking me if I’ll let them play with it for their February Game Day (if they behave and earn stickers all month, we play games the last class of the month).