Tips for Teaching Geography


Geography and maps can be a beast to teach, especially if like me, your school does not have a set curriculum and you have to gather your own ideas to meet the standards in your state. I've done some leg work for you here to help. Now,  keep in mind that I teach second grade, so my ideas are geared towards grades 1, 2, and 3! Click on any image in this post to find out more about the resources!

Use trade books like my favorite book, Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney! There is a new edition out with lovely new illustrations! Make sure you check out many of the  accompanying projects available on  Teachers pay Teachers!

Create Maps
 Create a map of your classroom using this activity from National Geographic!
Source: Winn Brewer

Studying States? try the National Geographic Make a Map project where students in grades 2, 3 and 4 make a tourism map of their state! 
Use technology like this Make a Map in Google Drive resource from Julie Smith!
Try the free app Scrambled States of America and /or their board game! 



The USGS (US Geologic Survey) has tons of activities for all age levels!




If you're looking for a complete geography unit which would be perfect for grades 2, 3 and 4heck out this Geography and Mapping Unit ! Students will learn about:

  • compass rose
  • cardinal directions
  • how to use a map
  • how to make a map
  • about the seven continents
  • 5+1 oceans (don't forget the Southern Ocean)
  • Major Rivers and Mountain Ranges
  • Where these locations can be found on a world map
  • Important vocabulary

Check out images of all of the activities included below!




What is your favorite activity or resource for teaching geography? Comment and let us know!

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    How to Make New Students Feel Comfortable

    One thing you should know before you scan through this post is that I am a reading specialist so I work with students individually or in groups of up to four students in my classroom. When I am discussing "new students", I am thinking of students that join my reading groups at various points in the year. Our groupings are flexible and during the year some students go back to the classroom and new students join groups. But this could apply to other interventionists like special education teachers, math specialists, and other teachers who work with various students throughout the year. It could also apply to students who move into your classroom from another school or town in the middle of the year.

    So how can we make new students feel welcome?

    The All About Me poster is a great way to quickly let students know about who you are and to make some connections. I share this with groups on the first day but as new students join, it takes about 2-3 minutes to share - and it's easy to make one! Check out my video here to see for yourself!

    Give them a buddy in the group! This is an old standby but folks have continued to do this because it can be so helpful! A buddy can do something as simple as walk them to your room, or during lessons, help them with materials and procedures!

    One on one time - If you are an interventionist, maybe take them by themselves in advance of the first group  for five minutes of a quick activity and five minutes of making connections and getting to know you time! This will help with their comfort level.

    Welcome Circle - in your group or class, have a welcome circle. Go around the group (it will be quick if you work with students in a small group) and  each child says their name and a fact about themselves. The next child says their name, a fact, and repeats the name and fact of anyone who spoke before them. Example: Archie says, "Hi, I am Archie and football is my favorite sport". Betty, who is next to him says, "I am Betty and I like to write. That's Archie and football is his favorite sport", and so on!

    Welcome Gift - I give bookmarks on the first day of reading groups. So, as group members change, I will either give everyone a new bookmark so it's fun for everyone, or give the new kiddo the bookmark that everyone else got recently. I make my own bookmarks and print them on cardstock so it's very cost efficient. If you give out personal dictionaries, or anything, don't forget new students as they join!

    Parent Connection - if it's appropriate, reach out to parents with positive feedback after first few days with a compliment or positive comment via a note in their book bag, email, etc. It's always helpful to start on a positive note with parents.

    What is your favorite way to help new students feel comfortable? Comment and let us know!

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      Ideas for Teaching Immigration

      Immigration to America is part of the second grade curriculum in my district and state. I always had a hard time finding resources that met my needs and ended up gathering a lot of ideas over the last few years. I am here to share those with you so you can add them to your toolbox, too! These resources would most likely be appropriate for grades 2, 3 and 4, and possibly some of them could be modified for first and fifth grade!

      There are so many terrific books to share with students that help with your immigration unit. Click on any to learn more about the books!



      Check out A Learning Affair's great Passport to Family Heritage Project on Teachers Pay Teachers! has some fun lesson plan ideas for grades 3-5! They include an interactive tour of Ellis Island, opportunity to explore immigration data, exploring immigration from Asia to America through Angel Island, and explore an interactive immigration timeline.

      Education World has a page that includes many resources for teaching immigration. Check the page out here!

      PBS has amazing resources, marked for grades 5+ here. Lesson ideas, videos and more. I imagine you could modify them for fourth grade as well.

      Rockin' Teacher Materials (Hilary Lewis) has a great freebie to accompany the book If Your Name was Changed at Ellis Island  (by Ellen Levine) on Teachers Pay Teachers.

      In this first video, on the channel A Kid Explains History, a kid named Mr. Q. explains the history of Ellis Island! It's well done and engaging!

      This video from maternitybvm and Teacher Tube includes a virtual Voyage to Ellis Island.

      Also, National Geographic has this great video (I think intended for adults) on what Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty mean today. I am sure most kids would understand the narration and interviews.

      Finally, I ended up creating my own resource for teaching immigration to my students. The resource includes:
      • Vocabulary cards
      • Task Cards
      • Diary entries
      • Reading passages and think about it questions
      • Writing prompts
      • Homework project
      • Immigrant Diary Assignment
      Take a look at these images to get a sneak peek. If you want a reading passage freebie, continue to the end of this post!

      Grab your differentiated reading passage freebie here
      Did we miss any ideas for teaching immigration? Let me know by commenting!

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