State Reports – 21st Century Style

Today – more accurately starting last week – I feel like a genius. I know that will all change by Wednesday. Actually, that feeling started to change this afternoon when someone thought Canada was a state.

State Reports in 5th Grade

We all do them, students for decades have done them. Little has changed. Students get an outline of what is expected, they write, roughly, a 10 page paper on a state, and the teacher must read all reports. I HATE it! I don’t want to read 47 state reports – I teach 2 classes of Social Studies this year. They are painful to read. They are formulaic – partly the fault of the teacher (yes, I know that would be me). And they are BORING!

Time for a change!

So this year, I’m challenging my students. Their reports will be on a Google Map that they create. They will still have to research all the same information, but the presentation will be different. For example, the directions state that they are to find the state capital (of their state) and mark it with a yellow star. Then they are to find other major cities and mark them with an orange star. The students are then free to insert photos of those cities to further enhance their map. Their maps will look something like this:

Below are the complete directions. Like I said, I feel like a genius today, but by Wednesday, it’ll be a different story. And in the end, I will compile all their maps into 1 map using Thinklink. In addition, I even allowed students to work with a partner. Yup, different from the norm!

How did the students react?

They LOVED it. They couldn’t wait to get started. I have a few email me questions already. When was the last time that happened with a written report? They were so excited. I just need make sure they stay focused and write the necessary paragraphs.

Minor issue

It has been a while since we’ve used Maps, and many of the students had questions about some of the specifics. Fortunately for us, the Techie Chicks are in our classroom. And they have a tutorial on how to create a custom map!

The future

I’m sure there will be tweaking along the way. The students will feel free to give me input, and even come up with better ideas. I’ll keep everyone posted. I’m really excited about this.

1 Week Later

Here’s an update.

Student Choice

Recently I began a unit on the Reasons for the Revolutionary War. It’s all gamified and I am usually 1 step ahead of the kids. Last week, I was about an hour ahead of the students. I had a group getting ready to start creating their Boston Tea Party movie that afternoon. At lunch I had the thought, “Hm, I should probably have them create a storyboard”.

I then began looking up storyboards, and stumbled upon Storyboard That. It had several great examples of simple storyboards on the Boston Tea Party. I only meant to give my students some example so they could either draw theirs on paper or on Google Draw. My lack of direction and the group’s internal fearlessness, lead to better than expected results. Instead of my students taking the easy way out, they dove right into the new tool.

The students came came to me after 15 minutes and asked for my login. I told them that I didn’t have one for the site, and asked why they needed it. They then showed me their work. Yeah, they started creating their own story board, and the site prompted them to save it.

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So I did what anyone else would do. I created an account on the spot! Glad I did, too. The students are being creative and showing me what they learned.