Motivating Activities for Geography Week
Here is a great way to pique your students' interest in geography and help them learn about their world.
By Greg Harrison
One of my favorite subjects is physical geography. Ever since I was a young student, I've always loved looking at maps of all kinds and finding out about different parts of the world. I find human geography fascinating as well. The astounding variety of cultures, languages, customs, religions, and ways of life on our planet is truly amazing. In recognition of Geography Awareness Week (November 14 - 20), I'd like to share one of my most successful geography activities.
Weekly Geography Activity
Each week, I create a two-sided worksheet. On one side, I write ten questions related to physical and human geography. Next to each question, I write the page number in their social studies textbook or atlas where they can find the answer.
Here are examples of the questions I include:
- Name the eight states that share a border with Kentucky.
- What is the largest country in North America?
- Name the world's four oceans.
- Which language is spoken in Brazil?
- Name the continent on which Europe and Asia are found.
- Which Scandinavian country shares a border with Sweden?
- What is the capital of Nevada?
- What type of landscape is found in most of Australia?
- Name the river that separates Vermont from New Hampshire.
- What types of natural resources are found in Uganda?
On the other side of the worksheet, I make a copy of a page taken from one of my geography workbooks. Usually, the second side is a map-related activity. I might ask students to find the distances between points on a map by using a scale, decide which roads are the best ones to take between towns and cities, or find what types of vegetation are found in certain states by interpreting the symbols on a vegetation map.
How the Activity is Managed
To complete the activity, students team up in pairs. They work together to find the answers to the questions, and to complete the mapping activity on the second side of the worksheet. As you can tell from the ten questions, students must interpret many different kinds of maps, and must find information embedded in text. The example above would work quite well for an upper-elementary classroom. If you are teaching in the lower grades, you could easily tailor the questions to suit your students' abilities. The assignment can also be modified for struggling learners by simply reducing the number of questions, eliminating the second side map activity, or by having an aide or student helper sit with them to give assistance. As the year progresses and students become more familiar with the maps, I make the activity a bit more challenging by eliminating the practice of giving them the page number they need to find the information needed and by giving more difficult questions. I have used this activity with great success for many years, saving each week's activity so that the next year I already have my worksheets ready to go! Below are some other excellent lessons for you to consider using during Geography Awareness Week, or at any other time of the year.
Another engaging lesson from The National Geographic Society! This lesson is geared toward third through fifth grade students. They utilize the six "essential elements" of geography in order to make in-depth observations and conclusions about historical landscapes. Students utilize the Internet and create personal journals. A very interesting lesson!
This thorough and well-thought-out lesson has middle school students utilize the Five Themes of Geography in order to research and explain natural disasters. They work in groups to study the causes of tropical cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Each group creates a PowerPoint presentation which they show to the class.
This outstanding lesson is designed for high school students. Students research several places in the world they would like to visit. They select their "top destination," and create five facts for a geography game. Additionally, they create a travel itinerary for a week-long journey to their destination.