I Love You, California

If you live in California, you know the beauty and diversity of our state. Luckily, my husband is always up for an adventure and he gets just as excited as I do about experiencing the various regions of California. So it's not unusual to find us taking road trips to the mountains, desert, and beach (or even driving through the Central Valley; lol)
Labor Day weekend found us driving up the coast to Lompoc, to visit La Purisima Concepcion Mission, California's 11th and most restored mission. We battled the traffic to get there, but it was fantastic once we arrived!  Although I love that Hubby indulges my love of history, our youngest daughter  (7th grader) was not exactly excited about being dragged along . . .  "MOM, 4th grade is over! I already know all about missions" (or at least the 10 we had already been to). "See?"  (pointing) "That's the campanario, the bell wall. There's the church with the pulpit that the padre talked from. We've already seen the blacksmith shop and the weaving room in every mission . . ." (imagine all this being said with a roll of the eyes and in a whiny tween voice; LOL) I have to admit, however, I was impressed she remembered all her mission architecture!
Anyway, the point of that story was that the different regions of California are easily accessible, so I'm always surprised when my students seem to not know much about their city, let alone the state they live in.  A terrific way to assess what your students know before you begin to teach geography is to ask them to draw their state and everything and anything they know about it. They are encouraged to label cities, attractions, bordering states, etc.
Hmmm. . . this is a great pre-assessment and gives me a lot of information about prior knowledge. 
The range of knowledge and experience amongst my class also becomes evident by this simple drawing. I save the maps and have them repeat the assignment at the end of the school year.  It's always amazing to see their progress and understanding of California!

 I can also quickly gauge how much students know about map skills.
After drawing the maps of California, I share photos of the various regions of the state, while looking at a map. I always love their responses: gasps and ooohs and aaaahs at how beautiful each region is! You can check out these photos and informational teaching slides in my CA Regions Photo File in my TpT store; or click on the photo below.  These photos help students to visualize the landforms and landscape of each region.
I used to love the ride, California Soarin' at Disney California Adventure, sister to Disneyland. This ride was a flight motion simulator, taking you soaring over the regions of California, as if in a hang glider. As you flew over the Pacific Ocean, you could smell the salty air and feel the seaspray. Soaring over the Central Valley, you smellled citrus from the orange groves. It was amazing! I was so sad when they replaced the ride with Soarin' Around the World, which is still terrific, but I'm partial to California :)

I'm a native Californian: born and raised in the Golden State! So how is that I never knew we had a state song? It's a little dated, but the lyrics cover the different regions of our state; a fantastic connection to fourth grade social studies curriculum! I'm definitely going to show this video and song to my class!

I love sharing the varied and beautiful regions of California with my class!
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  1. Social Studies (or any subject for that matter!) is always taught best by a teacher who loves the material! Your love for your state comes through loud and clear in this post, as I'm sure it does for your students! As an infrequent visitor to CA, you are making me want to explore the missions!

    1. Awww, thanks, Retta! Come back to California & I'll take you to see some missions! :)

  2. I love that pre-assessment. It'll give me lots of information about where the kids are.

    1. Yes, it's so fascinating! I totally understand when Europeans make fun of Americans because they say we don't know our own country's geography! Guilty myself (in the past); so it's my goal to teach my students the geography of California!

  3. Kathie,
    I read your post too late! We did our introductory lesson about the map of California last week. I would have loved to do your pre-assessment lesson! There is always next year...
    Wishing you the best in the new school year,

    1. Oh no! :) It's a good one, but you could probably do this same pre-assessment for any new topic.