How to Teach Geography Without a Curriculum
Geography is entwined in all subjects. Its an important subject that often gets forgotten. It is understandable though. It is another thing on your “to-teach” list. To add to it there are so many wonderful geography curriculums to choose from. In fact I was so paralyzed with making a decision and simply lack of time in the day I never actually started a curriculum. I kept saying I would do it soon or next year, and still have not.
Guess what my children are learning geography anyway! I won’t bore you with my abysmal level of geography knowledge up until the age of about 25 but let’s just say they are more enlightened on the subject than I was as a young adult. We are still learning together and I am adding things and seeing what works. With the below suggestions we always did these 3 things:
- Touch intended place on the map
- Say the name of the location out loud
- Find ourselves on the map in relation to intended location ( Ex: “That is west of us.”)
This unintentional real-life experiment has yielded unexpected results. So let me share what I did.
1. Put Up Large Maps In A Common Area
I put this as #1 because it is my most useful suggestion. We have a world map and U.S. map that I got from Rainbow Resource here. Not only having the map, but put it up in an area of the house that you frequent is key! I had it for a few years in another room. It looked really nice in that room and we did refer to it sometimes.
When I moved it to the dining area though that’s what made the big difference! The dining table is where we and most people do a lot of living. School work, zoom classes, dinner convos, reading books, and everything in between.
Our dining area is basically the same room as the living room where we watch documentaries, educational videos and just TV in general. So this makes referring to the maps in the moment so easy! We have paused movies to quickly point out where they are taking place. Even point out places while I am reading a book without really having to stop.
This makes studying the map in general easy. Noticing time zones, compass rose, ect. So choose a room where you do most of your “living” and make a spot for your maps in that room.
2.Read and Refer to Maps Often
I prefer literature-based curriculums so I looked at a few to aid in teaching geography, but as I said earlier that never happened. I did read though. So that is my second tip, read and do it often. Read biographies, fictional stories, scary stories, bedtime stories, and a favorite of mine is historical fiction.
All stories have a setting so refer to that map as often as possible. It does not need to be a drawn-out lesson. Us the 3 suggestions, touch the place on the map, say the name out loud, and find yourselves on the map and compare, that’s it! Trust me, do this enough and things start to stick. Also, don’t forget you can do this for books you assign to your children too. Have them tell you about the book and show you where on the map it took place.
3. Ask People Where They Are From
This concept really appeared to us recently as we do more things on zoom and have been able to easily connect with people from around the world. My daughters take a zoom class and there are kids that are from all over the world! So when we find out where someone is from we do our 3 steps and find them on our map.
For the longest time, my daughters only knew where we were on the map and California. That is because their cousin lives in California. Finding where a relatives or friend lives even if it is just one place that is a great start! Discuss how long it would take to drive to that state. What other places you would have to drive through to get there. If it is a different country discuss how customs might differ there. Lots of opportunities here.
4. Have a Reference Book
A good kid’s atlas is the way to go! Go to a book store and check them all out and choose what would fit your family best. Don’t choose the most popular one! They are all set up a bit differently and put focus on different things. I chose one with more vivid pictures of people and some landmarks. Since My kids are smaller so this was a good fit for us.
There are some with more fun facts or the focus is more on landmarks than people and vice versa. Keep the one you guys like best and get rid of the rest. Having too many options sometimes makes us not want to “open that can of worms”. Having one good reference book for geography makes it quick to pull it out, open the page, discuss, and put it away. Remember these little 3 to 4-minute geography discussions add up.
Do activities for the sole purpose of learning geography is my most “intentional” suggestion. For that reason we do this the least, but its probably the most fun suggestion as well.
- Puzzles based on geography are always a win.
- Also subscribing to monthly geography-themed boxes like this one from Kiwi co. are no brainers, literally! You don’t even have to think about it and they just show up at your doorstep. Now that’s a sure fire way to get in focused geography time at least once a month!
I hope these suggestions are helpful. Leave a comment below and tell me where and when geography teaching moments pop up in real life for you. Also if you’re digging this no curriculum thing check out my other post on How to Teach Math without Worksheets here. As always remember to always follow those rabbit trails, you never know where you will end up. Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to check out what we are doing daily over on our Instagram.