The Place-Map Assignment

This is is one of three lesson plans that accompany the essay The Advanced Class.

By Naomi Rachel

For this assignment with a writing class for older adults at Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder, Colorado, I brought in large sheets of paper and lots of pens and crayons. We are never too old to draw! The assignment was to draw a map of one place. 

We tend to think of our lives as photos—events frozen in time—but the reality is that our lives are determined by where we are and what is happening in the world outside the world of our individual lives. We can think of this in terms of big events like war, or smaller events. Either way, we are incredibly influenced by place. This has come up in every assignment at Frasier Meadows. When students interviewed each other or worked with photos in writing exercises, the place is almost a character in itself. 

This is how I present the Place-Map Assignment to the class. Once the students pick a place, I hand out the paper and crayons. 

I want to start with an exercise in which we remember one place. It might be your neighborhood when you were young, maybe your college campus, or maybe a place you went on holiday. Pick one that you remember well, with emotional significance. 

Draw your map. Title and subtitle it too. 

This week I would like you to describe in words the place you drew on the page. Remember, your readers (us) have not seen the place, so first make a list of what you need to include from your map. 

Student Writing 

Bubble Gum 

By Pat Geraghty 

On a spring afternoon in 1946, I was kneeling by the front window of our second floor apartment in Omaha. I had made up a reason I could stay home from school that day. Probably I had a leg ache. I used that excuse a lot because I had actually experienced leg aches a year or so earlier. They had kept me awake at night a few times. My mother called them “growing pains.” Being a healthy child, my limited experience with real illness made it hard for me to come up with a better excuse. But if my leg had hurt at all, it wasn’t hurting now, and I was getting very bored. 

It looked as boring outside as it was inside. Then the silence was broken by a yelling herd of children racing down the street. This meant school was out, but why was everyone running? And why were they all going in the same direction—toward the Hinky Dinky, the grocery store at the end of the block? 

Suddenly the answer came to me. A rare supply of bubble gum had arrived. During World War II, unlike the war in Iraq, we were asked to sacrifice. And with only a little grumbling, Americans, who had only recently recovered from the Great Depression, pitched in wholeheartedly. Meat, sugar, butter, leather, gasoline and other things were rationed. Once a year on Christmas we were lucky to eat butter instead of margarine; we only got a couple of pairs of shoes each year if we had outgrown the ones we had. Women used leg make-up instead of wearing nylon stockings. Men had victory gardens. Kids gave up bubble gum! 

We could usually get a brand that came in a flat package like Dentine, only the bubbles were pathetic, and it didn’t even taste like bubble gum. This raid on the grocery store could mean only one thing. Fleers Double Bubble!!! 

“I bet they have bubble gum! They have bubble gum! Mother, can I go get some bubble gum?” 

“But you’re sick. You can’t go outside when you’re sick.” 

“I feel better. I have to go now, right now. If I don’t, the other kids will get all the gum, and I won’t have any. I have to have some Double Bubble. Please! Oh, PLEASE! They night not have any again for a year. I just have to go. NOW!” 

Fortunately, my mother had never forgotten what it was like to be a kid. She gave in and gave me a dime. That was probably too much, because I’m sure a limit was set for each child, and Fleers Double was only a penny apiece. I tore out the door and down the stairs as fast as my sore leg would take me. Somehow, the soreness didn’t impede my progress at all. 

Before I knew it, I was one of the throng, running, tripping, and stumbling down the street. The block seemed to have gotten longer during the night. At last we reached the corner. The light was red. Wouldn’t you know? When it turned green, we moved as one across Farnum Street, over the sidewalk and through the doors to the candy counter. The manager stood guard trying to maintain some order. It’s all a blur. All I knew was that I had to get my gum and get out of there. 

I walked home with Marcia Kay, my friend from across the hall. We carefully put one piece each of our delicious treasure into our mouths. No multiple pieces like I see kids chewing today. We had to make this last. Oh, how heavenly! First, an unimaginably sweet taste. Next, the realization that it was a little hard. We had to really chomp down a few times to get it to the right consistency. By the time we could actually blow bubbles, it had lost its flavor, but who cared? We had gum sticking to our noses, our eyelashes, and our hair. Pure ecstasy. 

We weren’t allowed to chew gum in school. In those days, rules were taken seriously. The next day, after discussing it, we decided that on a special occasion like this, the teachers would certainly make an exception. They didn’t. Soon after the Pledge of Allegiance, the door opened. There stood the principal holding a big white enamel wash basin with a thin, red band around the top. Up and down the aisles he went as we all spit our precious Double Bubble into the already wide expanse of pink lumps. I still don’t understand how he could have been so mean. 

For her map, Pat drew the route from home to station to school. A few of the students got very involved in making paintings based on their maps.

“Old Arlesford Map” by Studio Mothership is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Teachers & Writers Magazine

Teachers & Writers Collaborative: