You use Google Earth for social studies lessons (you do, right?), earth science lessons, and math lessons, too. Why not for writing?
I teach basic essay and research paper writing, and I love it, but I also really like writing lessons that are off the paper and out of the box. After all, we write for a lot of reasons and in a lot of settings in real life. Helping students see the value of writing and learn that different kinds of writing are good for different purposes is a useful thing to do. This Google Earth lesson is a fun way to do it. You can click on any of the images here a couple of times and make them larger and clearer so you can see exactly what the screens will look like in Google Earth.
We’re writing about Cinderellas around the world, but you can write about anything that involves places. Here are some possibilities:
- landmarks in your state or town
- locations you’re studying in a history lesson or unit
- setting for books written by a particular author (Jan Brett, Tomie de Paola, Gary Paulsen, Robert McCloskey…)
- settings or locations within a single book
- places of origin for the raw materials in a project
- locations in the life of an individual you’re studying
- hometowns of scientists or inventors related to your science unit
- major exports or agricultural products of each state
We could go on all day! You may already do a lot of these things on paper, but adding Google Earth brings in technology and results in a new and interesting product.
- As a class, list the locations you want to work with. This may require some research.
- Divide the locations among the students. Have students do any further research necessary, and perhaps find pictures they want to use. Have students write and revise paragraphs about their locations.
- Open Google Earth on your classroom computer. A projector helps a lot from now on in, or you can set up a center and let this be an ongoing project, with students or groups of students taking turns at the computer.
- Right click on “My Places” and choose Add>Folder to make a folder for your locations.
- Fly to your first location, using the search box circled in the screen shot below:
- Click on the Placemark button shown circled in red below, or use the Image Overlay button to the right of it as we did:
- A dialogue box like the one below will open.
- Give your placemark a name in the highlighted box. We used the names of the characters in the Cinderella stories. Write a description. We wrote a synopsis of the story, but this is of course your writing assignment. Have students type in their paragraphs, or do this part as a class, revising and editing as a group.
- When you’ve finished your placemark, check and see whether the paragraph you wrote works on your map. Does it cover the location too much? Did you make your point?
- You can add a background color, pictures, and other things if your class has enough tech skill already, but this is the end of the writing lesson.
This video tells you how to make your locations into a tour, and here’s more detail from Google Earth. If you make a tour, you can play it back and see all your locations in order. However, you can also print out your screens and make them into a physical book or bulletin board if that better suits your classroom set up.