I briefly explain that we can learn a lot about each other by the places that we like to go. I give students a few examples. If I tell them that I go to Washington D.C. each summer, for example, and always go to several of the Smithsonian Institute museums, what do they know about me? (Possible answers: I like seeing new things, I like to learn, I'm interested in different topics such as space, art, nature, history). If I tell them that a friend of mine spends all summer at the beach, what do they know about her? (She might like the ocean, she probably likes to swim, she likes to be outside).
I give a few other examples, including a local one. (If a person hikes in Saguaro National Park every Saturday, what do we know about him? He likes nature, he isn't afraid of the desert, he might think the desert is pretty, he likes to hike for exercise, he likes to be outside.)
I ask the students to think of their 10 favorite places and to list them on lined paper. Some of them think that a place has to be outside of the city in which they live (in this case, Tucson). I clarify that a place is ANYWHERE that they like to be. It can be their backyard, it can be biking in their neighborhood, it can be Dairy Queen. It's nice to enjoy places at your home and near your home!
Often they will say, "I didn't go anywhere." and of course they did: the Swap Meet, Target, the mall, their cousin's house, their friend's house, and so on. I make sure that the kids who don't travel outside the city don't feel differently than the kids who do travel because, of course, there is no right or wrong in this activity and it's nice to love where you are!
I use the whiteboard to list the places they like because I find that this allows me more flexibility than typing it up and projecting it, despite how quickly I type. I guide the students in creating a written table. In order not to unduly stress the children for whom the fine motor skill demands of writing are still somewhat overwhelming, I allow abbreviations. I also type up a copy for the children so they can have that to refer to, but as I can't always get that to them until the next day. (In a a misguided interpretation of tech-savvy = all work is online, our district no longer supports printers or copiers).
I don't want to build a typed list into this lesson as a required component because it may be difficult for other teachers to get the typed up copy quickly also. I want this to be something that can be easily implemented even if resources are limited, though of course it can be enhanced by technology! The typed copy does facilitate student understanding.
As I've done this activity before, I have some pre-defined categories listed into which we place locations as children name them. This helps build on their understand of the connections between the local community, the city, the state, the region, and countries.
As we are creating the list, children think of additional places and (with some exceptions) I add these to the list. Then we vote, with tally marks, and they can vote for as many places as they like.
Additionally, if there is time (this will extend it past 60 minutes but I use 90 minutes, at least, for math) you can do a comparison of some of the places children chose. Here is an example: Favorite Places Student Work.
Next we set up a graph to represent one of the categories of places the students like. I have found it is too much to graph everything at once, though I am sure were I to do it on chart paper, it would be very interesting to look at!
I use graph paper created out of Microsoft Word Table because I can make the spaces big enough for students to write in, but regular graph paper would also work!
I model it on the projector as we color in the Places We Like In Tuscon Graph one place at a time. I have students pick 2 or 3 colors so that needless time isn't spent picking their favorite colors. They can play more with how to color it on later examples!
I conclude this lesson with a very brief discussion about the kinds of questions we can ask next based on a set of data. So, while the examples I give below are specific to my class in Tucson, the types of questions would apply across all situations. Also, it is my hope that some of you that use this lesson will be willing to send me a copy of your student graph and/or data chart. I think it could be really fun to build a lesson in which kids' favorite places from around the country are compared! Please send me a note in the comment box if you'd be wiling to do this!
So, the questions I ask my students, as examples of questions that arose from the data, are:
"Why do so many of the kids in our class have favorite places that are in Mexico?"
Their responses varied, but included: "...because we have family there," "...because we are Mexican (this is their chosen term for themselves)," "...because it is nearby". I then ask, "Do you think a classroom of 30 students in Michigan would have so many kids for whom Mexico is their favorite place? Why or why not?" (I make sure to point out, also, that we don't really have the data to answer this, though we can guess that on average a border city such as Tucson might have more people from the neighboring country than a state far away.)
Then I ask them to "silently think" (I time them for at least 30 seconds and discourage hand-raising) about another question they could ask based on our data. I ask them to share this with some neighbors as I walk around the carpet to listen. A few of the questions I hear are:
"Why does almost our whole class like the mall?"
"Why do so much of us like Rocky Point?"
"How come only 1 kid each likes Huepac and Oquitoa? Where are those places? I've never heard of them?" 2nd child: "Maybe that's how come nobody likes them because they haven't never been there."
I send home another Favorite Places survey for students to use with their family. This is the kind of activity that students are excited to bring home and I'm delighted to get back. I find out more about my students family, and I'm making a connection to the caregivers I'll be working with throughout the school year.
I find it helpful to give students a map of the state and, in our case, Sonora, Mexico to take home because it both prompts their parent's memory AND assists the students with spelling the place names so that they resemble the real name enough for me to interpret them! In class, I prefer to use fold out road maps because they have much more detail and small towns are listed, but I don't have 30 maps of Arizona and Sonora that I can send home, so this is an alternative. If possible, I would get fold out maps for each child to use at home!
If you do not wish to focus just on your state or region, you could complete this activity with a survey of how many different states have been visited by the children's families. For that, you could send home a printable map of the US (e.g., National Geographic) or get free maps from a generous business such as Cracker Barrel restaurants.