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Ideas for Using Mrs. Waffenschmidt in Your Classroom


We've all seen the news headlines that decry the sorry state of our students' geographic knowledge. That's why we teachers are always searching for new ways to improve our students' awareness of the world

Meet Mrs. Waffenschmidt!

Each week, Mrs. Waffenschmidt, Education World's intrepid adventurer, explores a different spot on the globe. She shares with students information and clues about the place she is visiting. Can students determine from those clues the name of the famous place where Mrs. Waffenschmidt turned up this week?

Mrs. Waffenschmidt

You can coach students to success with these weekly Mrs. Waffenschmidt activities. Simply model for students some steps they might take to figure out Mrs. Waffenschmidt's exact location. See Modeling Mrs. Waffenschmidt at the bottom of this page.

Education World's Mrs. Waffenschmidt series is designed to be used as a weekly activity. You will find 36 of Mrs. W's journal entries in our Where Is Mrs. Waffenschmidt? archive -- that's one entry for each week of the school year. Those entries are designed to accomplish two goals:

  • Build geographic literacy. Mrs. Waffenschmidt exposes students to places on all seven continents. In the process, students learn about place names, landforms, products, culture, and much more.
  • Build cultural literacy. Each week, Mrs. W visits a famous building or landmark that culturally literate students should know.

    But the weekly Mrs. Waffenschmidt activity has many other potential benefits, depending on how you put it to use

    Use Mrs. Waffenschmidt as a homework assignment that students and parents can do together. It's not like this is trigonometry; it's the kind of homework with which any parent can feel comfortable. Best of all, you're providing an opportunity for kids and parents to spend some quality time as they learn together about the world in which they live.


    Did Your Students Find
    The Answers Online?

    Teacher Deb Canton's students did!

    Education World is a site for teachers, not students. But Deb's students, like many others, can make their way around the Internet. One of her students found Mrs. Waffenschmidt's home base on Ed World -- and, in finding it, found all the answers. Since Education World is a free resource for teachers, we are not at this time equipped to password protect our answer keys. So what's a teacher to do? We had some ideas for Deb, and if you've run into the same problem you might check out our special resource, Did Your Students Find the Answers Online?
    Use Mrs. Waffenschmidt as a classroom contest. Cut up scrap paper and have students submit a slip with the their name on it and their best guess about the place and location Mrs. W is visiting this week. At the end of the week, draw from the submissions until you find a student who has submitted a correct answer. Award a prize.

    You might even stamp student submissions with the date submitted. Instead of randomly drawing a winner, the correct answer with the "earliest postmark" might be the week's prizewinner.

    Students might drop their Mystery State submission form into a fishbowl. Or, instead of a fishbowl, you might use a prop tied more closely to this activity's geography theme. Have them drop their guesses into a sombrero, or, if you have a globe that is in disrepair, cut off the north pole and have them drop the slips into the hollow globe.

    Use Mrs. Waffenschmidt to reinforce geography skills. Each week, students might find Mrs. W's location on different types of maps -- a blank outline map of the world, a globe, in an atlas They might even pinpoint the location on a blank outline map of their own.

  • World Outline Map #1
  • World Outline Map #2
  • World Outline Map #3
  • World Outline Map #4
  • World Outline Map #5

    And students in grades 4 and above should be able to identify the nearest coordinates of longitude and latitude. Introduce a Mrs. Waffenschmidt class map too. Mark her locations on that map. In addition, you might search online for a good photo image of each place. Post that image along the outer edge of the map. Use yarn to connect the picture and the pin that marks the landmark's location.

    Use Mrs. Waffenschmidt as a quiz grade. Every nine weeks or so, create a matching quiz. Have students draw a line from the places Mrs. Waffenschmidt has been to facts about those places.

    Use Mrs. Waffenschmidt to encourage students to learn more. Create a "passport" sheet numbered from 1 to 36. Each week, have students fill out their passport with their best guess of Mrs. W's location -- the place name, the country, and the continent. After students have visited a bunch of places with Mrs. W, assign each student to delve more deeply into one of the countries or places that was introduced. Students might create a project that demonstrates what they learn about the location.

    Use Mrs. Waffenschmidt to engage students in writing. Once students are familiar with the Mrs. Waffenschmidt format, have them write their own Mrs. W journal entries full of subtle clues about a place they "visited." See if their classmates can use the clues to figure out those places. Perhaps students will present clues about landmarks and locations in the U.S., in your own state, or in a country that students are studying in social studies.

    Modeling Mrs. Waffenschmidt

    You want your students to get the most out of this activity, so why not model a few steps they might use each week as they try to track down Mrs. Waffenschmidt's location? You might do a couple of the 36 activities in this series as you model this approach:

    • First, read through Mrs. Waffenschmidt's journal entry. You might even read it aloud.
    • Then read through it again -- but, this time, underline place names and other key words that might hold clues about her location.
    • Look up some of those underlined place names and terms in an encyclopedia, an atlas, or even a dictionary. Do those clues point to Mrs. W's location?
    • You might type key terms into an Internet search engine to see what information comes up

      As you read about the places and key terms, the text you're reading might begin to match up with the clues. Soon you might have found exactly where Mrs. Waffenschmidt is this week.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
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