Brainstorms for Geography

Summer has a way of inspiring great ideas because there is no pressure to write lesson plans. These are some of my lesson brainstorms for teaching different parts of the geography curriculum that I do not want to forget.

  • Absolute Location pre-teaching activity: buy a cheap used puzzle of medium difficulty. On back label pieces based on row and column (1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B, 2C, etc). Don’t tell students about system on the back. In a class period, have each small group race to put the puzzle together the fastest. The following day debrief as a class. What was challenging? What made solving the puzzle easier? Puzzle for Absolute LocationLesson learned. I bought a 500 piece puzzle at the Salvation Army, after spending a lot of time putting it together, I found out I am missing 2 pieces and have an extra piece. For future activities, 100 pieces would accomplish the same goal with a lot less labeling necessary. Your hand will thank you. 
  • Curriculet for Current Events and News Articles: I know ELA teachers who love using Curriculet. However, it was not until this summer that I realized it could be perfect for current events as well. Many news stories need additional images, explanations, history, maps, definitions, biographies, info graphics, etc to make them comprehensible to students (and most adults). Big news stories normally have these additional features, but they are not worded for students. I can customize the additional media and provide checks for comprehension all on Curriculet. I wrote a lesson flow using multiple technology and traditional tools for Creating Current Event Comprehension on Graphite. My favorite tool last year will continue to be the weekly introduction to current events: Flocabulary’s Week in Rap. Flocabulary was loved by students and the teacher. One addition I plan on making is adding Newsela to the Current Event lesson.
  • Newsela for Current Events: This website automatically picks a few news story a day to publish. The stories are leveled so that students or the teacher can select the level of difficulty of the reading passage. All students can get the same background story, but with personalized Lexile level. The 4 question reading quiz also changes based on the level. The questions are based on skills from the ELA Common Core standards. If a teacher pays for the pro version, there are many tracking options. Even without the pro version, I think this will be a useful resource.
  • Math behind population density: GSpreadsheet PopDensity
  • I want to bring more intentional cross-curriculuar lessons into my class. Calculating population density is the perfect example. I wrote out a lesson flow using technology on Graphite for Population Explosion: Understanding Population Density. There is a detailed outline, process, rationale, and links to the resources.
  • Publish iBook about Geography of our city: This might be overly ambitious; however, I am up for the challenge. I am going to crowd source writing an iBook about the Geography of our city. The work will be done through shared Google Drive folders, with everything copied into iBooks Author. It would be written like a tourist guide, but emphasize elements of geography, like the Five Themes of Geography or Absolute and Relative Location. All the images would either be photos or illustrations created by the students.
  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.26.43 AMPost Card with a fact learned while on vacation: Enforce the rule that anyone who is absent from class because they go on a trip, must bring back a postcard with a fact relating to geography or history. The easiest way to do this is provide an example of a human or physical characteristic of place. They will be hung around the room with clothes pins. I did this last year and the students enjoyed looking at what people brought back. I just forgot to require it of everyone.
  • Map our clothing: where is everything we are wearing from? Add pins to a Google Map. Use this to discuss the theme of movement. How did our clothes go from somewhere in the world to us wearing them? We can use a different color pin for the different clothing objects; this would allow us to see patterns between shoes and shirts and pants, etc.
  • Everything National Geographic: I have underutilized everything they have to offer, especially in relation to thematic maps on the Map Maker Interactive. I was inspired last summer at ISTE during a session from National Geographic, I was just overwhelmed this year and forgot some of the great resources. I rediscovered them over the summer.
  • Pinterest inspirations for crafts using old maps and globes: use chalkboard paint on an old globe, create a lamp shade with an old map, cut out hearts of maps of places you love an create a poster.
  • Maps, Maps, Maps. Maps are the heart of all the work we do in geography class. Students who struggle to read a map at the beginning of the year struggle all year. I need more problem solving practice activities with map reading. In my travels this year, I have stopped at many welcome centers and picked up a variety of maps for local states. These are such a great free resource.
  • Map Scavenger Hunt: Students will work with a partner and be given a random map. Groups will not have the same maps. We will use old bingo markers to highlight the places they find. Most of the items will be based on the Map Key, but it will also require observation and attention to detail. Possible items for them to look for: rivers, mountains, lakes, airports, turnpikes, tunnels, roads that cross state lines, museum, National Parks, state parks, historic site, welcome center, hiking trail, railroad, capital, big cities, small cities, a city with a man’s name, a city with a woman’s name, a city with an animal in the name, a city with a cardinal direction in the name, funniest city name, longest city name, etc.
  • Map Puzzle: I am going to take one of the free political maps I picked up during my travel and laminate the map. After it is laminated, I am going to cut it into 30 equally sized squares. As a challenge, I am going to remove the map grid. Posted around the room will be the List of Towns with coordinates. They will have to work as a class to piece it together based on the relative locations of their towns/cities.
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About Lisa Butler

Middle school teacher of Social Studies and Spanish, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of blogging and reviewing products. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading, baking, running, or traveling.
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One Response to Brainstorms for Geography

  1. Pingback: Collaborative iBook Publishing | Adventures with Technology

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