As a companion to my column for the ASHA Leader App-Titude series, "Welcome to Science Class," this series explores how technology can serve as a context for teaching "language underpinnings" related to the social studies curriculum.
Continents, countries, and cities provide a great context for developing language skills. The sequential/hierarchical nature of these arbitrary (well, except continents) regions can confuse many of our students and therefore provides good ground for concept development. Additionally, the spacial and semantic aspects are rich, with so many places to be explored. At many points in our students' academic careers they are confronted by these topics--my 2nd graders were expected to learn not only the continents and oceans but the content on units regarding China, Mexico, and Ghana--marking a key entry point to educational relevance.
Back in my early days dabbling with technology integration, I sorely lamented the lack of interactive materials regarding continents and countries. While taking an educational web design class, I actually completed my project by creating web pages (the hard way) with some interactive elements such as FANCY images that changed when you rolled over them with your mouse! Wow! *sarcasm*
How I would have loved to have Barefoot World Atlas ($4.99), a "magical, interactive 3D globe" featuring small animations that can be used to build schema about world countries and much more. Barefoot World Atlas can be explored with the fingers or via multiple directories (e.g. Regions, Countries, alphabetical elements).
Each animation can be viewed closely along with a kid-friendly text explanation. Tap the speaker icon and it can be read aloud, and a real image is also provided for each!
Regions and Countries also have text/audio content, schematically presented in a language-based manner corresponding with the "Five Themes of Geography"
The app is a great example of F- Fair Pricing (compare to the price of a book!), is clearly I-Interactive, provides great V-Visuals, and is E-Educationally Relevant as described above... So is it S- Speechie/Specific to your objectives, resulting in true FIVES-friendliness? Depends on how you use it!
-Construct a small (or large) "Scavenger Hunt" with language clues about where the different elements can be found.
-Identify elements that are the "same but different" from those in your city/community and have kids describe the similarities and differences.
-Use the audio for listening activities and to give kids a break from listening to you for a few minutes!
-The content is filled with expository text structures such as lists, sequences, and cause-effect relationships. For these, and all of the above, consider using this app in conjunction with graphic organizers to build connections in language. Don't miss the potential alignment with these Common Core Standards in Literacy in History/Social Studies:
Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).
Barefoot World Atlas is complete on its own but does have some nice expansion packs such as "Major Cities" and puzzle tasks, generally available for $.99.