Monday, September 16, 2013

Eight Helpful Resources for Teaching Geography

I love geography. I was that weird kid in 7th grade who would not be reading along with the class because he was looking in the back of his social studies book to find the fun place names on the maps...

Map via CIA World Factbook
Ouagadougou.

Surinam.

Ulan Bator.

Lago Titicaca.

French Lick. (Yes, for real. Check it out...)

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. (Google it!)

Sometimes I think I should have been a geography teacher. And I suppose I am, after a fashion, because I can't help but talk about people and places and politics...which are all parts of understanding the geography of this world.

Over the past couple of weeks I started cataloging some interesting geography resources I've stumbled across via Twitter. Here are eight good ones you might find helpful in your own teaching practice:

1. Maps of the World - The name says it all! Need a map of the world? Of a particular region or country? Click on the map on the main page and you'll be taken to a printable map of that nation, and links to a bunch more maps at the bottom of that page. For free! No sign-up required! (Thanks to Timesavers for Teachers for sharing this one.)

2. GeoGuessr - An interesting geographic awareness game. The way the game works: you are placed somewhere in the world where Google Street View allows a 360° panorama, and you try to figure out where you are. You click your guess on a world map, and your score is based on how close to the actual location you get. This might be a good way to help students pick up on environmental cues (both physical and human geography) that can inform them where in the world they are. Each game consists of five rounds, so games are fairly short. I'm picturing playing a game of "beat the teacher" rather than "beat your classmates"...but use it as you will.

3. 40 Maps that Will Help You Make Sense of the World - The maps here are interesting and odd, but also fascinating, and could be a great hook for a geography lesson. Examples include: "The Only 22 Countries In the World Britain has Not Invaded," "World Map of Earthquakes Since 1898," "Map of Europe Showing Literal Chinese Translations for Country Names," and "The World Divided into 7 Regions, Each with a Population of 1 Billion." So many interesting things!

4. The U.S. Redrawn as 50 States with Equal Population - This could be a great way to introduce the electoral college, and offer an alternative approach. I love the ideas for names of the proposed states here too: Atchafalaya, Throgs Neck, Menominee, Big Thicket, and Canaveral are such lovely names!

5. The Four Color Map Problem, Illustrated - There is a famous math problem sometimes called the four color theorem that postulates that no more than four colors are required to color any map, with no adjacent regions being the same color. Supposedly the 48 contiguous U.S. states can be colored in just four colors...in 19 trillion different ways! This site shows a different way to color the map every time you click. Whoa.

6. 19 Maps that Will Help You Put the United States in Perspective - I think it's safe to say that Americans on the whole are a pretty egocentric group. While the United States is a pretty large country--the third largest in population and fourth largest in area--many Americans might be surprised to see other world regions in comparison in these maps.

7. ThatQuiz.org - This site has lots of practice games for different content areas, including math, science, and vocabulary (in several languages!), but my favorite part are the geography quizzes. You can go through different world regions, and identify the countries, the capitals, or even rivers or other geographic features.

8. CIA World Factbook - The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency provides this amazing resource to everyone, not just their super-spies! Up to date information about every nation of the world, world maps, regional maps, population data, flag information...the possibilities are endless!

Do you have other favorite resources for teaching geography? Please share them by commenting below!

14 comments:

  1. MapFight: http://mapfight.appspot.com/texas-vs-us.ak/texas-us-alaska-us-size-comparison
    ifitweremyhome.com

    my map Livebinder: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=316908&backurl=/shelf/my

    Interactive Maps Livebinder: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=281182&backurl=/shelf/my

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  2. Awesome stuff! I can't wait to use some of these maps! I stumbled over this one in the rlamoureux's livebinder... http://www.mapfab.com/editor/new My 5th grade students will be planning their own RAGBRAI rout next week in social studies. What a perfect tool for the job!

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    1. My pleasure, Dan. Glad you found it useful! :-)

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  3. Love these kinds of sites - thanks for sharing (with links)!

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    1. This world is a fascinating place, isn't it? :-)

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  4. Thank you very much for sharing these, Dave! I know some social studies students who will benefit greatly from them. I love the "new" US!

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    1. I thought this one would be right up your alley, Ed! Please share!

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  5. As a Geography, I thank you! I love GeoGuesser, I use it as a sponge activity in my 3 block. The students love it. It teaches them to look for the smallest maybe simplest items to identify a country. I guess you can my students have learned to "cheat." If the picture has a name of a business or a street, they google the name. By doing this it gives the students a few choices, then using the evidence from the picture, the human and/or physical geography they can correctly identify the place. I have tried to do "Beat the Teacher," and the students are amazed by my scores...they are determined to beat me by the end of the year.

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    1. Glad you found it useful, Colleen! I love GeoGuesser too...probably my favorite of this collection, though the CIA Factbook is pretty awesome too. (Oh, who am I kidding? They're all pretty great!) :-)

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  6. Geothentic is a great PBL site utilizing the features of Google Earth.
    https://lt.umn.edu/geothentic/

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    1. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing it, Scott

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