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How to Teach Geography and Map Skills

This is the first year we have put any real emphasis on geography in our schooling. I was challenged and motivated by Leigh Bortins book The Core to up the ante with our children- and they have surprised me with how well they are doing and catching on. I have adapted her schedule to fit our needs as well as to fit more effortlessly into our curriculum. But if your interested in the whole schedule on teaching geography the classical way, you should check out her book. We are currently finishing up lesson two.

Here’s a peak into how it’s going.

Lesson 1: (This lesson is repeated until students can do this without looking at an atlas)

Using an atlas, ruler and unlined paper,  line up your paper on the atlas to make the marks where the Equator, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Antarctic Circle, and Arctic Circle should be.  Label those lines appropriately.

I expect my third grader to be able to write the words out correctly, but I allow my first grader to abbreviate. Even Olivia can do this!


Lesson 2: Add the Prime Meridian to your students paper along with lesson one information. Here is where you discuss lines of latitude and longitude.

I drew a ladder on the board as a visual reminder that Latidude and Ladder sound similar as well as point out the rings on the ladder going lateral.  I then drew a spider sitting on the top of the ladder with Long legs- representing longitude.

We also discussed how the equator and the prime meridian were both 0 degrees on the map.

Along with our geography we are also working on map skills, I believe they go hand in hand. Our curriculum uses the book Maps and Globes by Harriett Barton which is excellent for explaining all things to do with maps in a kid friendly way, so we have used this book extensively.

We started with the compass rose, I read the section on the compass from the book, and then drew a large compass on our driveway to play a direction game where we took turns calling out North, East, South and West. They had to walk in whatever direction was called. (They still ask to play this game)

Next we moved on to using a Map Key. I like to add as many real world experiences as possible to our schooling, So when we took a trip to the Zoo we used the opportunity to practice using a map with the one provided. At home we practiced with other real maps from Six Flags, our downtown area, and our state.



Once we had looked over various maps and understood what a map key was used for, we drew a map of our school room and made a map key to go with it.


Next in our lessons is plotting out where each continent is in relation to the tropics and the circles. Sola Gratia Mom has a great post showing where we are headed with this.

Stay tuned for updates on how we are fairing!

I’m always needed great geography ideas- there are many to be found at All Things Beautiful.


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