This post first appeared on the Keys in Burlington Blog
Students in fourth grade learn about the five geographical regions of the United States. They are expected to know states, capitals, geography, and how the regions differ from one another. We use the online program called Teach TCI so students can access this information on their iPads. I decided the best way for my students to understand each region is to read/listen to each section and use 2-column notes to write the most important facts. Students that struggle with what to write can use the “main idea” tool which highlights the most important facts. Each student writes the facts in their own words using abbreviations, as needed. I also allow for students to draw pictures of these facts, if necessary.
To set up their 2-column note, I have students fold their papers or create the lines based on the ⅓:⅔ ratio. Then they label the topic of their section. In this case, students labeled their notes as “The Southeast Region”. The ⅓ section, or main idea, is usually labeled based on what city or town they are researching and why. For example, the first section of the southwest region is called Monument Valley - Home of the Navajo, therefore students will write Monument Valley, Utah - Navajo Indian Reservation. On the ⅔ side, students will write anywhere between 3-4 facts about Monument Valley.
Once students finish all of the sections for the Southwest, they will use their 2-column notes to write a summary. I have taught the regions for a few years now and found that using 2-column notes and turning them into a summary is the best strategy to make the information stick. Students are also learning a skill that will carry over when completing research projects that will require them to only include necessary information. I have used this strategy since the beginning of the year and can now say that most of my students are at an independent level.