EdMark's Talking Walls
Talking Walls is a series of books presenting a thematiccurricular study of walls throughout the world. A wall can conjure a number ofimages: barriers, monuments, safety. By presenting both famous and obscurewalls across the earth, Talking Walls provides materials for students andteachers to explore a wide range of social studies activities. These activitiescan be extended with forays into science, math, and art.
I used Talking Walls with sixth graders, but there arecertainly applications from kindergarten through high school. The Talking Wallsbooks are beautiful and vibrantly illustrated. The software provides in-depthlooks at each wall, its history and culture. Younger students can use the CD as a talking picture book, while olderstudents can delve into the accompanying material to learn more about worldcultures.
There are walls from 30 countries in each book. The storyillustrations are repeated in the software, as is the text. There is a greatdeal of additional expert information on the area and issue being discussed.Maps and geographic information make this a useful social studies tool.
Some of the walls are linked to famous people. NelsonMandela’s prison walls represent the fight against apartheid in South Africa.Murals by Diego Rivera portray the painful history of Mexico. The softwareprovides further links to personages, making the CD a wonderful resource forbiography studies.
Some p'etry is utilized in the discussion of walls: RobertFrost’s Mending Walls, E.B. White’s Ballad of Artistic Integrity and DougRawling’s The Wall. These are usefulstarting points for studies of p'ems and literature.
Many of the walls are representative of protest or memorial.The Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., the Berlin Wall, and the walls ofNelson Mandela’s prison provide inspiration for discussions of socialmovements, protest, and societal change.
Other topics associated with the walls include celebrations,homes, work, religion and languages. Talking Walls is an extremely usefulstarting point, or resource to supplement various areas of the curriculum. Theaccompanying teacher’s guide provides ideas, activities and further resourcesfor each wall.
The software contains Web site links accessible only throughthe CD-ROM. This greatly expands the range of resources, but we did find theInternet connection to be glitchy at times, with freezes and a few brokenlinks. However, on the whole, the experience is a useful and focused Internetsession.
My social studies curriculum contains in-depth looks at apartheidand the Holocaust. Both Talking Walls books provide an excellent extension tothese units. Be sure to visit www.edmark.com to see the specific wallscontained in each set, so you can buy appropriately.
Elkins Park School
This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.