Implementing the Curriculum

1) Before anything else, please read this advice directly from creator David Smith himself. This helps give a broad interview for how you might proceed through the curriculum:

Curriculum Units

Unit 1: Appetizers or "Getting Oriented" — Learning how to read maps, learning about projections, etc. The Grapefruit lesson, contour maps, thematic maps, etc.

Unit 2: Entrées — Working with checklists, labeling blank maps, review activities and quizzes. The checklists are as follows:

  1. Selected World Features
  2. US
  3. Canada
  4. Central America
  5. South America
  6. Europe
  7. Eastern Europe and Northern Asia
  8. Africa
  9. South Asia and the middle east
  10. Australia and the Pacific

For each checklist, one week is spent filling in a regional map from atlases, using the checklist handouts in the book, and then exchanging maps and cross-checking. Then one week is spent creating review activities — sometimes students create the activities for each other, and they LOVE doing this! The 3rd week is up to you — it can be a review quiz sort of thing, or you can take the week 2 review activities to some other homeschool, etc.

Unit 12: Seasonings — This unit includes further activities for review and enrichment. You will find a section on mnemonic devices and some creative games that can be used throughout the year when reviewing different regions. There's also a detailed (optional) research project called “The World Experts Lesson,” during which students research and put on a "World Fair." All of these activities provide students with opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other.

Unit 13: Dessert — Getting ready, learning the outlines, practicing, practicing, practicing. Finally, drawing the final map.

  • My practice is that as students prepare for the final map, then, and only then, do they start to memorize. A constant overlay of memorization throughout the year adds a level of tension to the process that has never worked for me.
  • As they prepare, I encourage students to make up their own Mnemonics, and to help each other by teaching each other how they learned different details. It's so much fun. I include it in my "coping questions" every day.
  • Here are some examples of mnemonics: Italy looks like a boot, what do other countries, oceans, continents look like? (British Columbia is also a boot, Africa is a woman looking west with a large hairdo, Mexico is a fishing hook.) Whatever students can think of and then explain will be helpful.

Ultimately, the whole point of this curriculum is to get children to learn how they learn — to give them lots of methods for learning hard things, and letting them settle on what works best for them.

2) How are the maps in the map set used? Which maps are used with which lessons?

The map set comes with ten double-sided color regional maps. You also receive two copies of each black-line world map (Equirectangular, Mercator, or Robinson projections) — one is a blank grid, the other features continent lines. Hold onto the blank grids until after the Entrées section. (You will photocopy the blank grids for practice purposes later in the curriculum. Please see question 3 for more information.)

Every checklist below corresponds to one of the blank maps in the map:

  • Selected World Features Checklist: Use A black & white outline world map (Equirectangular, Robinson, or Mercator — choose whichever projection you prefer). Do NOT label the blank grids yet — have students label a black and white outline map with the continent outlines on it.
  • US: Use Map 01
  • Canada: Use Map 02
  • Central America: Use Map 03
  • South America: Use Map 04
  • Europe: Use Map 05
  • Eastern Europe and Northern Asia: Use Map 06
  • Africa: Use Map 07
  • South Asia and the middle east: Use Map 08
  • Australia and the Pacific: Use Map 09

Follow these steps when you get to the Entrées section:

Give each student a checklist (i.e. World Features, US, Canada, etc.). Provide them with atlases or globes for reference. Then, have the student use the checklist and reference materials to locate geographical features, cities, etc. and label them on the corresponding map for that checklist. In other words, if a student is using the World Features checklist, he or she would use an atlas or globe to label one of the black and white world outline maps featuring continent outlines (Equirectangular, Mercator, or Robinson — your choice). If your student is using the Africa Checklist, he or she would use an atlas or globe to label the checklist items on the double-sided color Africa regional map.

By labeling their blank maps, students are creating their own handwritten, labeled maps to use for reference during the remainder of the curriculum. By using an atlas to find the places on the checklist and labeling their own maps, children learn to use the atlas, to use an atlas index, to talk to each other about where places are. It's really no more time-consuming than if you gave them a filled-in regional map and said "copy what I've done here," and doing it with a filled-in map denies them the chance to explore the atlas.

For the Entrées section, one week is spent filling in a regional map from atlases, using the checklist handouts in the book, and then exchanging maps with other students (or the teacher) and cross-checking. It can be very helpful to have students collaborate while labeling their maps, too.

Next, one week is spent creating review activities — sometimes students create the activities for each other, and they LOVE doing this! The 3rd week is up to you — it can be something along the lines of a review quiz, or you can take the review activities from week 2 to some other homeschool, etc. Repeat this cycle for each of the checklists. P.S. Map 10 (Mexico With States) is for use with the Mapping Mexico by Heart Appendix in the back of the binder. If you are currently exploring the main part of the curriculum, put this map aside until you're ready for the appendices.

3) How do I teach students to memorize information and draw the maps?

Author David Smith recommends that a teacher not teach how to draw the countries and land masses, but rather give students lots of opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Here are his suggestions:

I suggest doing nothing at all about learning borders and continents and so on during the school year — to impose an overlay of "memorization" on all the regional maps creates a constant sense of panic. Instead, students teach themselves how to draw the boundaries and borders during the "getting ready" time, in the 3 weeks before they make their final memory maps. They study and memorize the borders, they create their own mnemonics, and they teach them to each other.

Here's the general order of what I do...

Run off lots of black and white blank grids for the world map projection you've decided to use (Equirectangular, Mercator, or Robinson — your choice).

For each student, run off one black and white filled-in outline map (with continent lines) for the world map projection you've decided to use. This filled-in map will be used for checking.

Post one filled-in map on each available window in the classroom, so students can hold their hand-made maps against them to check their work.

Students practice every night — start with the point where 0 degrees of longitude meets zero degrees of latitude, and learn the coast of Africa, each night a little more. Africa generally takes a week. But by then, they are already "learning how to learn..."; some students will be very "right-brained", and try to do connect-the-dots and other literal techniques; others will be very "left-brained", and will focus on shapes and general relationships. Most students find a method somewhere in between that works for them.

In class each day, hand out a blank map and say, "Show me what you learned last night". This will give you a good idea of how students are doing.

Let students ask questions of each other — I call them coping questions. They can ask these out loud, or if they think everybody else knows it and they'll embarrass themselves, then they can drop a card in the classroom "suggestion box." For example, you might get "I know the countries in Central America but not the order they are in. How have others learned this. . .", to which one or more will reply with a mnemonic ("beware of hot gorillas eating nitrates casually, pop" for example); "I can't get the top of Russia to look right. . .", to which somebody might say "It's a triangle, and here's how I make it. . ."; "How did you learn the African countries on the Mediterranean?” to which somebody says "a MALE from Tunisia..."; etc., etc.

Bit by bit, students make sense of it all; during the actual mapmaking, they can review at home each night for the section they plan to do in class the next day. It really does work.