Saturday, November 17, 2007

Map It

You know that part in 'Mean Girls' when Janice draws the map of the cafeteria showing where everyone sits? Turns out that social maps are a pretty effective tool for getting kids to look at and describe their environment. Some of the literature we've read in STEP discusses social maps, and Teaching Tolerance has a whole lesson on it. So when I got to take my CT's advisory for a day, I thought it would be a pretty fun activity to do with them.

Despite the classroom management issues that ensued that day (another story, probably not to be told another time), the kids made some pretty interesting maps. I only took pictures of two of them because the third got destroyed during the aforementioned classroom management debacle.

This first map was a collaboration between five students: a Mexican boy, a white boy, a Chinese boy, a Latina girl, and a Filipino girl. I categorized them by race because that's how they did a lot of their own categorization. They even asked me if they were being racist by labeling groups this way. Of course this was where I inserted a teacher move and turned the question back on them. Is it wrong to label a group by something that actually does characterize them?

Some of the labels Group 1 came up with, going clockwise from top left:
-"Mexicans...and other Latinos, etc." (they changed this after I asked if the kids who sat there really are all Mexican)
-"Soccer players"
-"People who think they're cool (Freshmen!)"
-"Volleyball players"
-"Football Players"
-"JROTC Crew"
-"Black (cool people)"
-"Special Ed and Teachers"
-"Mexicans...and other Latinos, etc."

Group 2 was actually just a pair: a Mexican girl and a Mexican boy. Interestingly, they drew other parts of the school and didn't really use racial labels. Instead, a lot of the groups they labeled are actually mostly Mexican and Latino.

Group 2's labels, clockwise from top left:
-"3rd Floor Blue Gangbangers territory"
-"Other Mixes"
-"Soccer People"
-"Drums People"
-"Football Players"
-"Red Gangbangers territory"
-It got cut off in the picture, but along the left side it says "Key: The dots are people walking around"
One thing I found interesting from this map is that the "blue wannabees" area is where a lot of the English language learners (ELLs) hang out and blue is the color associated with the gang that tends to be more recent Latino immigrants. The red gang, on the other hand, is also predominately Latino, but most are American-born.

Unfortunately, I don't really leave the third floor of the school much and I definitely don't get a chance to walk around during lunch (I'm always in my room), so I wish I had more commentary as to how this would compare to a map that I might draw. Something I did notice, however, is that when I asked the kids to label themselves on the map (sorry, I blurred out their names), nobody put themselves with a group. One boy got placed by his classmates at one of the Mexican/Latino tables from Group 1's map, but I don't think he had much say in that decision. I was surprised by his placement, because he's on the soccer team and I almost always see him with his teammates, so I wonder why he wasn't at the soccer team's table.

I'd like to hold on to these maps and have the students do it again at the end of the year. Obviously there will be some differences, but I'm curious to see what those differences will reflect.

1 comment:

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

That's pretty darned fascinating. What a great deal you're learning this year - and I am, vicariously!