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1st grade social studies: Mapping apple pie with Google Spreadsheets

Recently, our 1st graders started learning about geography, including skills like reading a map, locating the seven continents and four oceans, and identifying various landforms.

The week they started learning about maps, I thought it would be fun for us to do a mapping activity in the library–and since it was also the beginning of fall and apple season, I thought Marjorie Priceman’s How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World would be perfect!

image from

In this story, the narrator decides to make an apple pie. She makes a shopping list and heads to the store, only to find that the doors are locked and the owner has gone fishing!

My 1st graders were quick to suggest that she just go to another grocery store–easy enough to do here in Athens where we have many to choose from–but the narrator in the story has a different idea for how to procure the ingredients for her pie.

A globe-trotting voyage across the Atlantic ensues as she collects all the items she needs. And this, my friends, is where the mapping comes in!

As we read the book together, I projected this Google Form on the SMARTBoard:

how nice of Google to supply this cute apple tree theme for my form!

Each time the narrator traveled to a different location to get another ingredient, I had students remind me where she went and what item she got while she was there. Students shared the information with me out loud, and I typed their responses into the Google Form.

If you’ve never used Google Forms before, this is when it gets cool. All Google forms are linked to a Google Spreadsheet, so every time we entered a response on the form, it populated a row in this spreadsheet to chart the narrator’s journey around the world:

Since the word “home” at the end of the story is too ambiguous to map, we entered our own home–Athens, GA–as the place where the apple pie was made.

The kids thought this was super cool, and it made it easy for us to track how the setting of the story changed.

But it gets better.

Google Spreadsheets have a wide range of charts and gadgets that can be generated using your spreadsheet data–and one of those gadgets is Google Maps.

When you insert this gadget, you specify what range of cells contains the data for your map points, and you can also designate the last column as “tooltips” that will show up if you hover over the map pins with your mouse pointer. You can also control whether you want to see map view, satellite view, or hybrid.

I set up our map to show a satellite view with tooltips, and I set the data range to B1:c50 so that any data entered into these rows would populate the map–but between classes, to prevent duplicate map points, I did delete the form responses to reset it for the next group.

I also moved the map to its own sheet so that students wouldn’t see it until the big reveal at the end of the lesson.

And here is the map we made:

wow! look how far we traveled together!

I zoomed way out so that students could see the continents and the oceans, and then we reviewed the sequence of the story together so we could use the SMARTBoard’s ink layer to draw lines from our map points and chart our voyage.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World is a fun story anyway, but adding this digital element gave students a great visual of the narrator’s extensive travels, and they loved seeing how their responses on the form created the spreadsheet and the map.

I would love to use this basic setup again for any number of activities, especially related to social studies. (Think of how powerful a map like this might have been for our 4th graders’ recent study of explorers!)

But you don’t have to wait to see what else I’ll do with this, because one of my talented and inspiring colleagues, Andy Plemmons at Barrow Elementary, has already adapted this activity for a 4th grade research lesson in which students used a Google Form to track where different tribes of Native Americans were located. Visit the Barrow Media Center blog to read more about it!


3 comments on “1st grade social studies: Mapping apple pie with Google Spreadsheets

  1. lindalouise0626
    October 30, 2012

    Ms. Hudson, you are so very clever, and our kids are so blessed to have you!

    • tanyamhudson
      October 30, 2012

      Linda, thank you so much for the sweet compliment–I am lucky to teach at such a wonderful school!

  2. Pingback: Kindergarten apples, and a special bilingual visit from Ms. Tobie! « Tree Frog Blog!

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