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Classroom activities for critical thinking

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Bulgaria! Oh! Here? No, that’s Algeria. Look. Bulgaria. No. That’s Bolivia. Here! Here! Yes! Mexico. Yeah! No!
Greenland. Yeah!
Which is bigger, Greenland or Australia? Look at the map. Greenland. Australia. So these are the sizes of these countries on the map. This is Australia, maybe this way around. It’s hard to see. And this is Greenland. Hard to know the orientation. But you can see, Greenland is significantly larger on the map, on the map we’re looking at. On the map they know and they trust. Which ones bigger, Greenland or Australia? Greenland Is It two times bigger, three times bigger? I think two, about two times. OK who can catch? Edwin. very good. Curtis. Which is bigger, Greenland or Australia? Let me have a look. Greenland, very good, excellent!
In reality however, when you look at the globe, this is the accurate navigation device, of course. You look at Australia here, and you look at the Greenland here. And you consider the relative size, then you can see very clearly that Australia is the size of my thumb. And that Greenland isn’t even the size of my little finger. So you know Australia is bigger than Greenland. Actually, something like four times bigger. Well that’s interesting, isn’t it? So you’ve got on this thing, Australia is bigger. And on this thing, Greenland’s bigger. Anyone know why? The map may be wrong. No! Ah! So, well they can’t be both correct. Because the Earth is round. The map is flat.
Very good, excellent. This orange, what shape is it? Sphere.Circle. So if I think this is like the earth, if I want to make a map like this, well let’s see if I can do it. I’m just going to take that. How about that? Magic? I think so. Now, is this flat? Well, no. OK, so how can I make it flat? What can I do? Very good. Well what happens? Is that a nice map? No! Why is it different? Which is better? Which is more accurate? And it’s a difficult question for them to answer, initially. Because some of them think the map is more accurate. They see it every day. It’s treated as a fact.
It’s true as far as they’re concerned at school. But they also know that this is the correct shape for the earth. So what’s true? And it’s that, which forms the basis of the lesson. So that’s a ball. That’s round, like this. Let’s see what happens. We can make a flat thing. We can make a map. Yes, John. But it will turn different. It will turn different, exactly. This map, is it the same as the other one? No. OK, let me just show you then. So, this is the map we know. And here’s the one on the thing. Is this a nice map, do you like this one? This one’s a little bit different from this one.
Have a look, tell me. What’s the difference? Curtis. This is [INAUDIBLE] longer. This is longer. So, this one’s longer. And this one’s fatter. So this map is fat Africa. This map, long Africa. One of these are wrong, or maybe both are wrong. Wow, very nice both of them are wrong. So, what’s the problem with this one? What’s wrong with this one? All the place, the shape has changed. Amazing. Very good. See this one, yes. I think you stretched it too much. Brilliant. So here, the problem is the shape of the countries is stretched. The shape is wrong. But what’s the problem on this one? The shape is still wrong, I guess.
No, the shape of Greenland is too big and Australia is too small. Excellent, right. So this one’s wrong, because the size is wrong. Too big, too small, but this one’s wrong because the– –shape’s stretched. There you go. I’m not a geography teacher. My knowledge is limited. But without stretching it, or changing the shape of some of the countries, you can’t take a sphere, and open it up, and make a single flat surface. There’s an inherent distortion. And that’s fine. It’s just the way it is. And that’s a nice thing to understand, as well. Because it’s an understanding of shapes and of topography. If that’s not the right word, don’t put it in. Topography and relative shapes and sizes.
These maps have names. The name of this map is Mercator. What does that mean? Well, that’s the name of the man who made the map. And this one, the name is– Peters. Peters, yeah. Because Mr. Peters made this map. Can you, captains can you come and get a piece of paper from me, please. How many do you need Mr. [INAUDIBLE]? Five.
4,000? I can’t give you 4 million! Man, don’t be greedy. Look at the questions, here. Watch the programme and then answer the questions. OK? [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - So let’s welcome my guest of the show. First up, it’s a Flemish map-maker from the 16th century, Mr. Mercator.
Please also welcome a German historian from the 1970s, Mr. Peters. Take it away, Mr. Mercator. - Hi, Larry. Hi, audience. Well, I drew my map in 1596, to help sailors explore the New World. It shows compass bearings as straight lines, which help the sailors to end up in the right place. See? All the sailors think my map is the business. Mr. Peters has got the shapes all wrong on his map. His countries look all stretched. Look at Africa. It’s meant to look like this. But on Mr. Peters’ map, Africa is all long and stretched. Hang on a minute. The sizes are all wrong on your map. You make Africa look tiny. When in real life it’s enormous.
Which of these maps do you think is the best? - [INAUDIBLE] - Hold up your scorecards to vote for Mercator or Peters! [END PLAYBACK] OK so, I want you to think, which map do you like best? Which is the one you like best? All right now, you can come to the board and vote. Which one do you like best? Thank you. Everybody come, come. One, Mr. Curtis, man. Which one do you like best? Very good, [INAUDIBLE]. Thank you very much.
I don’t know about Peters. Mercator is [INAUDIBLE]. Yeah, just write equator’s wrong.
Why is Peters’ map fair? Because it shows the countries’ real size. Number four over here. When did Mercator make his map? 1596. Very nice. The north is bigger than the south. Why do they do that? Because those countries are more important. Very good. Because the rich countries up here, he makes them bigger, because he thinks they’re more important. But if he makes the rich countries bigger and it seems that they’re more important, it’s not fair to the small countries. That’s amazing! That’s such a good answer.

Watch learners participating in critical thinking activities in the classroom.

As you watch, consider the questions below:

  • How do the activities in this lesson promote critical thinking?
  • What other classroom activities have you used to promote critical thinking skills?

A note on classroom video

The classroom videos in this course are of real teachers taken in real classrooms. When commenting on classroom videos, aim to be constructive and specific and remember that the teachers in the videos may also be taking part in the course!

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You can download the lesson plan and materials for this lesson by clicking on the links below, and following this link.

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