Focus Question: How do we use an atlas and its features to find information?
Have partners look through an atlas. Say, “Make a list of the kinds of information you can find in an atlas.” Allow time for students to explore the atlas.
Ask, “What did you find in the atlas?” Record answers on two separate sheets of chart paper. Put the text features on one page and the other answers on another page (L-3-2-2_Text Features.doc).
Note: Text features include the table of contents, glossary, index, pictures, captions, maps, and key/legend. Information to list on the other page includes facts such as “There are seven continents on Earth.”
If students did not identify all the text features, lead them through the atlas to find others.
Draw students’ attention to the chart paper where you have written the text features. Ask, “Why does an atlas have text features? Do they support the reader’s comprehension or understanding of the information in the atlas?” Go through each feature and discuss how it helps the reader. Spend some extra time showing students how to use the index. Distribute the Text Features information page (L-3-2-2_Text Features.doc) so that students have it as a reference.
Choose a page for students to read. Have them read in partners or small groups. Ask them to analyze the text features on the page (e.g., charts, graphs, tables, legends, insets). Ask, “Why did the author choose to add those text features? What information do they support or add? Would other text features provide better information or support for the reader?” Have students share in small groups and then share with the whole group.
Play a game in which students race to find information in the atlas. For example, ask questions such as the following: “How many countries are in South America? What part of the world has the largest population? Which text feature is used on p. ___?” Make sure you include some questions that would require students to use the index and glossary in an atlas. Use the atlas activity questions provided as a guide (L-3-2-2_Atlas Questions.doc).
Have students look at the maps of the United States in their atlas. Ask, “What information can you find about the United States from an atlas?” Write students’ answers on chart paper. Use the following questions to guide students to locate information about the United States. Say, “Use the text features in the atlas to find the answers to the questions I ask. Be prepared to give the answer and name the text feature that contained the information.”
1. “How big is the United States?”
2. “Locate and name two mountains in the United States.”
3. “How many people live in the United States?”
4. “Locate and name two lakes and two rivers in the United States.”
5. “What is the weather like in different parts of the United States?”
6. “What other countries border the United States?”
7. “What text features helped you locate that information?”
Use the following questions to help students make inferences:
1. “What kinds of clothes do you think are worn in different parts of the United States? Why do you think so?” (warm clothing in the north because it is cold; light clothing in the south because it is warm) “Where did you find that information?”
2. “What outdoor activities might you enjoy in different parts of the country? Why do you think so?” (skiing and sledding in the north because it gets snow; swimming and boating along the coasts because of the nearby water) “What text features helped you determine that information?”
Distribute items with labels indicating where they were made. Have students look at an item and use an atlas to locate the country where the item was made. Distribute the Research Questions worksheet (L-3-2-2_ Research Questions.doc).
Have partners record the information about the country that they can find in the atlas. Tell them to use the text features to find information and draw conclusions about the country.
Encourage students to share with the class what they found about the country they were researching. Discuss how the text features helped students find the answers to their research questions and how students were able to answer the questions when the answer was not found explicitly in the atlas. For example, how did they know what kind of clothes people might wear in that country or what kind of houses people might live in?
- Have students who are ready to move beyond the standard write questions for a trip around the world. Tell students to write questions that can be answered only by looking up and viewing the page in the atlas on which each country is located.
- Students who need more practice using an atlas might work in a small group under your direction to locate information about a continent, a country, or a state. Have students indicate which text features they used to support or gain information.