Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Timberdoodle Review: Beginning Geography K-2nd

This is my first curriculum resource review for  Timberdoodle -- a wonderful company that we've used to purchase unique supplements and resources for the boys.  When I was asked to review this Evan-Moor Beginning Geography book, I jumped at the chance, because Evan-Moor resources are some of the best workbook-type resource I've tried.

The basics.  This reproducible workbook is available from Timberdoodle for $10.75. You can make copies of any of the pages for your immediate family.

You'll find three units in this book, which is listed for grades K-2nd:  mapping skills; landforms and bodies of water;  continents and oceans.  A forth section, called Animals of the World, is more of a set of early elementary reference maps that you can use to supplement any study of the continents.  Each page has a succinct definition at the top of the page and clear directions for children to follow.  My 2nd grader who has average reading abilities, hasn't had difficulty reading the directions or sentences in the book, which means older students (and younger ones with advanced reading ability) can complete the activities with some independence.

Each section/ unit is fairly self contained, with its own table of contents and overall directions.  There are three assessments for each of the three units.  The assessment themselves have a similar format as many of the paper task:  matching, fill ins (often with a word bank), and some sentence completion. The book is extremely easy to use -- copy, sit down with a pile of your favorite colored writing/ drawing implement and go!

The book itself. The Map Skills section advances kids from understanding what a map is ("A map is a drawing of a place from above.  A map shows where things are.") to investigating map symbols, distances and gridlines.  It uses a variety of make-believe maps in the beginning (a child's room, a pretend city),but does advance to realistic maps of the United States. I love that it explains map scale to children in this age range!  This section is mostly worksheets with  cut-and-paste activities.

The Landforms and Bodies of Water section is one that has lots of engaging ways to teach about basic landforms.  First, there is this cool poster:

One of the two maps included in this book.  We added sticky notes to label the landforms and bodies of water.

Concepts introduced include: hills and mountains; islands and volcanoes; deserts and plains; canyons and valleys; and oceans, lakes and rivers.  (phew!)  Each of these sets has three activities -- matching pictures and learning facts (including vocabulary) about the features.  Again, the book uses imaginary examples of some places (a hill or mountain), but incorporates actual features found in the North America -- Lake Superior, St. Lawrence River, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite Valley.

There are two additional project activities in this section:  a landforms and bodies of water mini-book and a matching puzzle activity center. My 5-year-old son really, really loved putting together the puzzle activity.  After coloring the puzzle pieces, we taped them to an unused file folder (plus another, cut in half) and created a reusable file folder activity that he can work on independently.  We taped a small envelope to the back to store the matching half of the pieces.  

One of the things I discovered in this unit is that it is wise – for my boys – to vary the activities.  Luke got a little burned out of learning about the landforms, since it was a lot of reading, coloring and cutting activities.  I had tried to vary the activities (a little of maps, a little of landforms), but I have to admit that Levi’s enthusiasm for *any* of these pages captured my attention and I ran with it, to Luke's disadvantage.

Continents and Oceans:  Luke and I completed my own make-shift continents and oceans unit in kindergarten/ first grade, so he didn't want to review this information with me again, even using this book.  But, I cannot *wait* to use this book to walk Levi through this material (although as youngest, he probably already knows half of it from listening to his brothers).  He will really like meshing the animal map pages with the continent pages.  The material is flexible enough to be added to just about any type of curriculum – literature-based geography, classical rotations, and science. The second map that come with this book is a drawing or the world. 

In most of the continent maps, topographical symbol are introduced to the kids – mountains, savanna, desert, for example. However, it isn’t as much topographical information as I’d like my kids to have (there is no additional information for North America and the desert regions are not noted on Asia).  Then again, at least it is something and we can always add more.

Levi *loved* these activities!
Overall, I love this product (as I do with most Evan-Moor products) and highly recommend it.  Levi is a young kindergartner, so I think this product can definitely be used with an advanced preKer through 1st or 2nd grade.  I wish my 2nd grader (who is an older 2nd grader, but about on-par academically with 2nd graders)more interest in it than Luke, but I think that is my own fault – I wasn’t sure where Luke was with his mapping skills, and I probably bored him too early on.  But, with a multi-grade level resource like this, my problem is easily corrected: I can just advance to his level and we can go from there – no need to spend more money!  

Here's a link to Timberdoodles unique and thorough geography section (we have a few of these products and **heart** them), where you'll find a variety of ways to spark your child' interest in geography.

Thank you to Timberdoodle for sending me a free copy of this resource in exchange for my honest opinion and ideas about this product.

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