Atlases are the third reference tool that I explored with third graders. Continuing with the theme of tools, I reminded students that just as tools (screwdrivers, hammers, pliers) have specific functions, so do reference tools. I show them the hardware tools each time as they seem very interested in them and I think it catches their attention.
Traditional Form Explored First
I started with traditional, paper atlases first, as I did with the dictionary and thesaurus. We discussed the alphabetical arrangement of the dictionary and thesaurus and contrasted that with the arrangement of atlases. I showed the group a very large atlas and we brainstormed how we would find a location if the maps aren’t in alphabetical order. Someone usually offers up the idea of table of contents or index, as these students are familiar with the text features of non-fiction books. Working in small groups, I have them locate countries that relate to whatever they are studying.
I read the book, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, to two classes after we worked with the thesaurus, so I had these students look up locations where Roget lived. For the other classes we looked up England (they are required to know about Greenwich and the prime meridian) and Greece (studying the beginnings of democracy in ancient Greece). That’s about all I have time for during one library visit since my instruction time is limited to about 15 to 20 minutes.
Atlas Adventure: Part 2 Google Maps
The second time we work with atlases, we went on to examine online maps. I did the second lesson as whole group, so that I could project my laptop onto the screen I have in the library media center and we could explore a Google map together. We notice that this map looks a lot like ones found in the traditional atlas. But then we start to play around with it. I ask them how we could get a view of more of the area and someone came up with clicking on the minus sign. One student even used the words, “zoom” out. Then I click on the Earth view and they think that is very cool. I ask them how they took those photographs and the answers usually start with airplanes or helicopters. A couple of the students will say the pictures were taken from a satellite. I usually have to explain how satellites work using a globe. Often student relate this idea to satellite television.
Next we explore the very cool “street view” feature. One of the 3rd grade social studies standards requires the students to locate the Prime Meridian and the street view of the Royal Observatory shows the Prime Meridian marked on the ground with a metal strip, plus the very cool sculpture representing longitude and latitude. The students were very excited as I maneuvered around and several remarked it was like a video game.
The last reference tool I cover will be the encyclopedia.