Students read adventure books that often evolve in several locations. We usually know part of the setting, the countries or the cities where characters live the adventure, but we rarely have a picture of the house, the park or the street where important events occur. We have the author’s description throughout the story, but like we say: “A picture is worth a thousand words”. That’s why I thought that the most interesting option to really increase students’ interest in what they read and learn could be using Google Earth as a visual support.
An interesting tool
“Google Lit Trips are especially useful in exploring books that contain many geographical settings.” As a teacher, I can create an online activity where students, while they discover the specific settings of the story by looking at pictures and 3D visuals of Earth, answer questions on what they have read in the book. They can do it by themselves, but if I want to increase the efficiency of the activity, I would ask students to work in small groups. I think that, by searching on Google Earth and by reviewing every important point in a discussion group, they could really memorize everything more easily than if they had accomplished the task by themselves.
Now, how to get prepared for this activity?
To create this activity, the first teacher’s task is to gather and write the necessary information for all locations in the story. You write down everything in a Microsoft Word document so it is ready to be used on the Google Earth application. Ask yourself: Which question-answer can be interesting to be revised for this part of the story, which occurs in this location? Can I add pictures? Can I propose further researches that lead to interesting information? Organize the information as for a paper document, but don’t loose time on choosing fonts and colors, you will do it online.
Next step, go on Google Earth
Once all information is selected, gathered and well organized, go on Google Earth. The program is free on the Internet. Now, to create a personal project, it is easy and well explained in two short videos. Basically, you will search, one by one, all locations that are mentioned in the chosen book, and edit each point with the information that you have in a Microsoft Word document. Thus, directly on the map of Google Earth, there is points easily identifiable for students. When they will clic on them, a page will open and present the information you have arranged yourself: pictures, question-answer and other information.
How does this activity will help you as a teacher?
Get interest from students. I think that the only fact that students will see the real location of important story events will widely increase their interest and efficiency in their task, and by the same occasion, in their assimilation of the information for a further test. The students like technology and even more when it is 3D, so they will be more concentrated on what they learn and the class should be more in control.
Get students involved in their learning. I think that I would add some website links that are not directly important for the understanding of the story, but that students can consult for personal interest. For example, if one character has a disease, I could had a link to a website that gives the explanation of that disease. It would be students’ choice to look for this information or not. Even if it is for their personal knowledge on the subject, some bonus points could be attached to this additional task. I think that, with time, it could increase their natural curiosity if the information is interesting.
Promote language learning acquisition. Like I said earlier, I think that the research and exploration part of this activity should be done in small group of two or four. By doing so, they can talk together about the book; give their opinion about the story and the characters, explain their personal perception of the events, but also help each other in their English comprehension. This task is also a good revision that prepares all students for a final examination.
I really think that Google Earth is a very good tool that I could use as a teacher to transform students’ daily reading in interesting discovery. Instead of using maps that I have created myself, I would use the most authentic material available today, which is in 3D. Students will certainly be much more interested in the activity if they can, as they learn the vocabulary associated to movements in a city (turn right on… street, go straight, keep going, etc.), visit a city that they don’t know and they would like to know. Computers are available in every school, and Google Earth is a free program, easy to install, that could change the perception and appreciation that students have about English classes. In a real visual context, it gives them a very good occasion to explore some of the most popular cities around the world. During classroom’s activity, “for today use geography, Google Earth could be a phenomenal tool” .
Many activities that have been experimented are available on Internet, so I would look at their descriptive, choose one, and adapt it for my need when I have a good opportunity. Noel Jenkins‘s website provides personal collection of ideas, lessons and resources for geography classes, through the use of Google Earth in second language learning.