Students will enjoy learning geography more and teaching geography will be easier as well by incorporating some fun and interesting lesson plan activities.
Middle school students will learn and remember more of their geography facts if they are having fun while learning and are inspired by interesting topics. Weave games and creative extention activities into the curriculum. Use issues which appeal to them to bring geography to life.
An imaginative geography curriculum can include a variety of student interests including other subjects and non-curricular activities into fun lessons. Listen to the students and focus on things they are excited about outside geography class. Then incorporate those lessons into the geography syllabus.
Play Geography Games
Ask students what their favorite (non-video) games are and list them. With a little creativity, you can adapt almost any game to an area of geographical study. The variety of monopoly-style board games attests to the flexibility of board game themes.
Some fun games to adapt for geography:
- Password – students are in teams, with at least two teams of two people. One student guesses the secret word, such as a city, country or capital city, after one other student from the team provides a one word clue. If the first guesser gets it right with the first clue, the team gets ten poins. If the first guesser gets it wrong, then the second team gives a clue and makes a guess. If they get it right, they get nine points. If they get it wrong, the game continues until ten guesses have been made or someone gets the right answer. Play continues until time runs out and the winning team is the one with the most points.
- Pictionary – Create a stack of clues that relate to the geography lesson and have one student draw until those on the team correctly guess the picture.
- Headbanz – each student has a card that he or she has not read and wears it tucked into a headband so all the other students can read the card. He or she gets to ask one question about their card. If the answer is “yes” they get another question. If “no” the turn passes to the next player. The winner is the person who guesses their card.
- Name 5 – name five things that relate to the geography word, such as Paris or South America. Students can do this invidually or on teams.
Also ask them about topics they might be interested in learning about, books they are reading, and hobbies they have. Popular topics might be added to upcoming studies.
Geography students should be familiar with all sorts of maps. There are many ways to turn the maps into games assist in the memorization of geography facts. The hardest part of this type of activity might be in coming up with enough maps of the locations being studied. Keep a sharp eye out for maps that can be used and possibly made unusable by incorporating it into a game.
If you can’t find a printed map to suit your purposes, and you can’t print out the map you need using your printer, consider having students create a large map. For a large map, teamwork will be key in creating the finished product. Use large pieces of butcher’s block paper or large rolls of newsprint to create inexpensive maps. Laminate the finished product or use clear contact paper to make it last longer.
Make 3D maps out of any kind of clay, play dough or papier mache. Three-dimensional maps can include mountains, rivers, lakes, and any other natural features in the geographical area. Kinesthetic and tactile learners will especially enjoy this project. Another version of this same idea is to create an edible map, either a giant cookie or large flat cake and create an edible map. Food colorings and frostings can be used to add detail.
Most people have friends or relatives who like to travel. Ask them to come into the classroom to give a talk about one of their travels. Feel free to ask your guest speaker to include relevant topics to those you are studying in the class at the time, such as geographical formations, landscapes, and climate.
The students may also know someone who travels and would come in to the classroom to speak. The guest should bring in any visual aids he or she may have and if there is access to an overhead projector, photographs from the trip could be shared with the class.
Don’t forget to include the students as guest speakers. If the students themselves travel, have them prepare a presentation as a guest speaker. For those students who don’t travel, give them the opportunity to be a guest expert on some geographical topic and allow them to prepare an oral presentation including the using Power Point.
These are just a few ideas to spice up the middle school geography classroom. Thinking outside the textbook and away from worksheets, tests and quizes will add interest to a subject that is underappreciated among many students. Listen to the kids and try to spend at least one day a week incorporating new and different ideas for teaching geography. The students will retain more and will look forward to geography lessons.