Thursday, September 09, 2010

Syllabus, Magnet geography / Trudeau / 2010-2011

As guided by the comprehensive curriculum, which insures topical uniformity across the parish . . .

Aug: basic skills in geography (2 weeks)
Sept: US & Canada (4)
Oct: Central & South America & the Caribbean (3) also, Europe begins.
Nov 4: schools closed for presidential election.
Nov: Europe (4)
Dec: Russia & Northern Eurasia (3)
Jan: Middle East (SW Asia) & Mediterranean Afric
Feb: Sub-Saharan Africa (3)
March: South & Central Asia (3)
April: East Asia (3)
May: Australia & Oceania

Geography is a social studies regimen in which Robert Trudeau's students take a humanities approach appropriate to a college-oriented high school curriculum.

The class integrates
* study of language (especially Greek and Latin roots)
* literature (often through classic films such as Gandhi and Lawrence of Arabia)
* architecture (students make abbreviated models of buildings such as the Taj Mahal and the Great Mosque at Mecca)
* cuisine (taste this Japanese nori, or cultivated seaweed, and write down 5 sensory words)
* music (ethnic or classical music is played in the classroom daily)
* map study (students can draw and label a map comprising the entire world by year's end), * economy (per capita income, standard of living) and
* history (empires, wars, rulers).

Subject-matter units may vary in order and substitutions may occur according to world conditions.

Skills emphasized in geography class comprise the higher thinking modes:


The primary theme is that students are encouraged to gather information about a nation / culture and compare it to previously-studied nations.

Quizzes focus on reading and organizational skills. Reading comprehension is a key to this class as well as to your future success in school and work.

Analysis: to take apart the elements of a culture:
* land - ex., from the cold Himalayas to bustling Shanghai
* resources - petroleum, alumina, arable land, work ethic
* history - golden eras, wars, colonialization, empire
* arts - architecture, painting, sculpture, literature, clothing
* philosophy - What is the theme of Confucianism? can you identify the difference between Buddhism and Taoism?
* government - authoritarian, socialist, democratic
* economy - free enterprise, government controlled, modified
* ethnic groups - Mongolian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Creole
* language - Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese
* religions - the degrees of fervor in Christian, jewish and Muslim communities

Synthesis: combine elements of cultures to offer a theme or thesis.
Ex., a) Write a brief essay showing the similarities in Chinese and American cultures. b) Create an annotated map that shows the influence of Buddhism across several nations in Asia.

Questions which accompany each class activity emphasize interpretation and comparison.
Ex.: if most of the world's poor population cooks over charcoal, what are the indirect stresses on the environment? answer: not only air pollution, but deforestation (charcoal being the product of partially burned trees). Deforestation leads to excessive erosion of topsoil and to an extreme danger: a decline in agricultural production.

Learning styles exploration and communication styles evaluation are the subtext for this social studies class.
* How effective is repetition? How can repetition be made bearable?
* How does art - ex., illustrations - enhance learning? Does color add significant impact to communication?
* Does a hands-on activity (for instance, a puzzle map) enhance retention of material?
* Does a multiple-choice quiz create involvement in a general audience? Is multiple-choice more appealing than a fill-in-the-blanks quiz? Why?
If students both see material on the board, write it down, add an illustration, add color, create a quiz and write an essay on the material do we reach a high level of understanding and retention? That is this teacher's idea of a thorough lesson.

Composition engages students in the highest mode of thinking.
Written communication must be
orderly; logic and chronology and thoughtful transitions must be in evidence. Writing must be:
* detailed - examples and documentation make a full-bodied article.
* lively - a snappy title and colorful opening are mandatory.

* credible - "according to" and a source must accompany all fact and even presentations of opinion. Meanwhile, we also avoid plagiarism.
* insightful rather than lengthy - while offering an adequate amount of evidence is important, the highest level of writing demonstrates questioning, offers a thesis and demonstrates leaps of imagination.


Rand McNally Quick Reference World Atlas is used in class virtually every day and on every quiz. It comprises demography, topography, political life, and spatial relationships. The RMQRWA offers students opportunities for exploration, memorization and global insight.

Presentations and activities developed by your teacher from material in the NY Times, Public Broadcasting, National Geographic, World Book and numerous additional sources.

The Class Web Site at is designed to help create a partnership in learning between student, teacher and parents. Assignments, activities, notes, announcements and tests are updated regularly. Here you will find opportunities for bonus credit writing assignments and a place to catch up on notes and tests when you are ill or otherwise absent.

Guest speakers and field trips offer a first-hand learning opportunity. Students' questions are highly valued during these experiences. Post-activity essays afford us an opportunity to evaluate the experience.


Memorization is exercised by a regular schedule of map tests. Spelling counts, as it does all one's life.

Open Notes Multiple Choice Tests offer a challenge to students' ability to take accurate notes, to organize their notes and to use pertinent resources, such as notes from the class web site and resource books in the classroom. Also measured by Open Notes Tests is the ability to read questions and the ability to use deduction in choosing answers.

Student growth in communications and thinking skills are challenged in the most stringent way by essay questions. Students are given evidence in handouts and expected to follow essay guidelines.


Special teamwork assignments such as making Powerpoint presentations are an important part of a varied academic diet.

Independent work

Essays are the primarily recommended form of independent work. Each week I suggest several topics for research and writing. From time to time I may allow students to bring a taste of a foreign cuisine to school. I also encourage audio-visual projects such as video and other photography projects.

Email is my way of extending my care to the 143 students I teach each day. Email may be used for bonus work or regular assignments when needed.
Parents and students' questions are answered efficiently by the use of email.

Instruction and student achievement will be based on these items, as mandated by the Department of Education:

Solving geographic problems by use of geographic materials.
Organizing material by formulating mental maps.
Determining how location and social, cultural, and economic processes affect the features and significance of regions.
Analyzing the structure and interconnectedness of regions.

Determining the social factors that impact human systems.
Analyzing demographic materials.
Comparing economic systems.
Examining the role of technology in human achievement.
Describing the earth's physical challenges and searching for solutions.

Using concepts such as chronology and conflict to analyze history.
Interpreting primary and secondary sources.
Conducting research in efforts to analyze historic issues.
Analyzing cause and effect relationships.

Analyzing and demonstrating an understanding of nations' changes in the modern era.
Analyzing the origins, central ideas and impact of great religions and philosophies.
Tracing the interconnectedness of peoples through research into national and cultural forces.

Grade level Expectations

Competent use of all sections of the atlas.
Mental mapping.
Comparison of cultures.
Use of graphs and diagrams in communicating geographic material.
Drawing conclusions about locations based on the evidence in maps and graphs.
Analysis of economic forces.
Demonstrate an understanding of demographics.
Inquire into the forces that create war and peace.
Describe the cultural forces that link the world's regions.