In a learning activity based on the life road maps method, learners draw a map of someone’s life that highlights the critical events and decisions that shaped that person’s identity. This activity helps learners better understand historical or literary figures by focusing their attention on the many factors that contributed to a figure’s decision making. You can utilize this method as part of a research project, as a way to review previously studied material, or as an assessment tool. You can also have learners create personal “life road maps” to help them reflect on critical choices that have shaped their own identities.
Use it at the beginning of an identity unit or at the beginning of a course to help create a safe environment in which learners feel comfortable sharing and listening to one another.
- Learners Learn about the Individual: To utilize this method, learners need to have information about an individual and the context in which they lived. This could be info gleaned from a film, independent research, or class activities. To prepare learners to construct someone’s life journey, have them write a journal entry about pivotal moments or essential decisions in this person’s life. Alternatively, they can create a timeline that embodies significant events and choices in this person’s life.
- Brainstorm “Life as Journey” Metaphors: Explain to learners that they will be drawing a “map” of someone’s life. Before learners draw their maps, have them brainstorm things people may encounter when they take a trip or journey. Items on this list may include stop signs, speed bumps, traffic lights, dead ends, detours, highways, tolls, and rest stops. Allow learners to discuss what these items may embody when applied to the metaphor of “life as a journey.” For instance, a dead-end may render a decision that did not yield the desired result. A green light may embody getting approval to move ahead.
- Learners Construct Life Road Maps: Learners can construct “life road maps” in small groups or individually. It is best if learners have a big piece of paper on which to map out the journey. The journey must embody crucial decisions and events that have shaped this person’s life. Learners can add details to their maps, including factors that may have influenced decisions, such as historical events, meaningful relationships, goals, beliefs, and aspects of human behavior (fear, conformity, prejudice, etc.). As learners work on the “life road maps,” you may allow them to walk around the room to survey what their peers are doing. This can be an excellent way for learners to generate new ideas about how to embody an individual’s life as a journey.
- Share and Debrief: Learners can share their work through a formal presentation to the class or small group or as a gallery walk. As learners review the work of their classmates, ask them to pay attention to similarities and differences among these maps. As a final activity, you can ask learners to write a journal entry or essay explaining what they have learned from this activity. In particular, learners can reflect on what is unique about this person’s life and what seems universal.
- Multiple Perspectives on Someone’s Life: You can assign several learners the same person as the focus of a life road map. Learners may collaborate on research but still produce their road maps. This allows learners to see how the same information can be interpreted to construct different life stories.
- Personal Life Road Map: Learners can follow these exact steps to develop a life road map for themselves.