EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Lauren Curtis, a graduate student in Secondary Education English/Language Arts at the University of North Alabama.
Student engagement and motivation are two determining factors in achieving success in the classroom. When students are engaged and motivated, they listen, participate and ultimately benefit from the lesson. Many high school teachers, however, struggle to achieve engagement and motivation, particularly in the English classroom. One solution is for teachers to help students make real-world connections to the lesson. This allows students to become invested in the material and see the application or importance to their own lives.
Thankfully, advancing technology continually provides us with new and interesting ways to help students make connections and become more engaged. Google Lit Trips, invented by high school English teacher Jerome Burg from Livermore, CA, involve students in the “travel” that takes place through great literature.
Each interactive trip uses Google Earth to transport students to the places depicted in their favorite tales. The Web site has developed into a free online community where students and teachers can share their own journeys through literature. Google Lit Trips are not a substitute for reading the novel--rather, they offer an enrichment opportunity that captivates students and helps to develop higher-order thinking skills.
To access this invaluable resource, begin by downloading the Google Earth software. This will be needed to open the KMZ files through which the trips operate. It is also a good idea to download both Adobe Reader and QuickTime Player, as many of the files from the Web site will need these programs to open.
The next step is to visit www.googlelittrips.com. At the top of the page, you will see headings for K-5, 6-8, 9-12, and HiEd. Click on the appropriate heading to view the list of available titles. Once you have found an interesting title, simply click on the download link in the top righthand corner. The file will then be downloaded and saved to the computer and available for viewing.
After familiarization with the Web site, the possibilities for use in the classroom are endless. Imagine reading Night by Elie Wiesel and taking students on a visual trip through Nazi Germany or bringing Shakespeare to life through a visual exploration of Macbeth. Students can take the journey on their own, in small groups, or as a whole class with the assistance of the teacher.
Teachers could collaborate across the curriculum and align literature and social studies units using Google Lit Trips to form a visual connection for students. After some practice, students may even be able to create their own literature trips and submit them to the Web site for publication.
The Google Lit Trips site is a great classroom resource for increasing student engagement and motivation. Take your own journey through literature--and see where it leads you.
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