Archive for Geography

South America Games: A Fun Way to Review

South America Games

As we were nearing the end of our unit on South America, I decide to spend a class period with my high schoolers doing review – game show style! As you can guess, playing South America games was a whole lot more popular than doing South America pop quizzes.

Here is a video I created with the Storie App that shows clips of each activity.

Dancing (with the stars)

As part of an assignment while they were studying Brazil, I had posted a video for them to learn to Samba at home. Now they got to show off how good they were. I first let them practice with this video

and then I used the music I downloaded here while they competed. Three did it really well and three others weren’t bad – so all six won candy.

South America Jeopardy

South America Jeopardy

 

 

 

 

 

 

The students always love playing Jeopardy. I have a buzzer system as I coach our quiz bowl team so it makes it easy to do. The clip in the video was actually taken after the event as I forgot to do it while we were playing. There were 16 in the class and they paired up to play.

I used one I found online instead of making my own. The one I used was on Central and South America. I love how easy it is to keep score like this! Just hook up a laptop to a screen and it feels like you are on the set of Jeopardy!

South America Kahoot

Kahoot

 

 

 

 

If you have never used Kahoot with your students, you should. They love it as you could tell in the video. While Kahoot is not an actual game show – it could be! Students do all need a device – anything works. They log in to your game room. Multiple choice questions appear on the screen and the select the shape that corresponds with their answer.

Immediately the time is up they can see if they were correct and where they stand on the leaderboard. At the end they were begging to play again but time had run out.

I adapted a public Kahoot – Features of South America – by removing the questions we hadn’t covered. I could also have added some of my own but as I had 16 questions I didn’t feel I needed to.

This was such a success that I plan to have a “Game Show” type review at the end of each continent we study. I have a few more game show ideas in mind to mix up the format.

Do you have any game shows you have used for Geography Review? Please share in the comments!

Fantasy Geopolitics: A unique way to learn about the world

 

Fantasy Geopolitics Review

 

I am always looking for ways to make learning real and relevant and fun – so I was thrilled when I learned about Fantasy Geopolitics.

Mashable described the game as “Fantasy Football” meets “Model United Nations”.

Students get the chance to decide which countries they want on their “team” – and this requires them to learn about what’s happening in the world if they want to be successful.

How does Fantasy Geopolitics work?

 

Teachers set up leagues for their classrooms and decide how many countries will be on each student’s team. On draft day students take it in turns to make their selection.

Then for the duration of the game (the teacher decides how long that will be) students are awarded points depending on how often their countries are mentioned in the news, and whether they are mentioned in a favorable light or not.

Students can trade with other students during that time, or drop countries and select ones that haven’t been drafted already.

Fantasy Geopolitics Leaderboard

Steps to take before the Fantasy Geopolitics draft

1. Give the students a few weeks to follow world news

2. Make sure all students have an email address they can use. This allows them to access the game outside of the classroom.

3. Get the students to write down a list of countries they would like to draft. Remind them the popular ones will be chosen quickly, so they need plenty of options. If they don’t have an extensive list to work through you will find yourself waiting while students try to decide on countries to select.

What students think about Fantasy Geopolitics

My students loved playing and the first thing they would ask to do when arriving in class was to check the leaderboard. Here’s what two of them told me after we had concluded the game:

Tyler said:

I thought it was great. It gave me a reason to look up and see what was happening around the world. I learned lots about the Middle East and I came in second place!
Chance said:
My experience in Fantasy Geopolitics was great. I spent time reading the news and learned many new things. It was so much fun.
Who should use Fantasy Geopolitics?

This is a great game to play with middle or high schoolers (or even college students!) who are taking classes in Geography or Economics or anything related to current affairs and world politics.

The game works on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones – which means it is accessible to almost everyone.

It does cost – but if you have a few classes it turns out to be $1 per student or even less. And that’s for a full year. They do have various plan options. You can sign up and get a free account that allows you to play with 5 people so that is a good way to try it out and see if it is right for your students.

So – go and check it out at fantasygeopolitics.com and let me know in the comments if you are playing it with your classes.

 

FundaFunda’s Online High School Geography Class for homeschoolers

Online high school geography class

As our world becomes more and more connected through the internet and the ability to travel easily, it is more and more important for students to understand the world they are part of. Fundafunda’s online high school Geography Class aims to help them do just that.

Many jobs have people all over the world working together on projects, many involve travel and many require interaction with other cultures.

All this means Geography is a very exciting and relevant subject to study – but all the excitement can so easily be destroyed by a dull text book and worksheets.

But you won’t find any of those in our online class! This course is intended for high school homeschoolers and after the completion of both semesters, they will have earned one full credit. Younger students may take it – but bear in mind the course load is high school level. And of course, non-homeschoolers can enroll too. Any students are welcome – but there will be about 4 hours work each week.

How will the content be delivered?

1. Video

Video allows students to actually “see” the place they are studying. They can hear the sounds and watch the people.

2. Research

Students will be assigned various topics to research – and their research will then be shared with their classmates in creative ways. They definitely won’t be completing worksheets! It is important that students are “active” learners. Benjamin Franklin said

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

3. Websites

The websites won’t be ones that are just “textbook clones”. They might be games, or scavenger hunts, or Google earth! There are so many really engaging websites that take “experiencing” Geography to a whole new level. Webcams and 3D technology can help students feel like they are really there!

4. Interactions with locals

Students will each have a penpal in another country to interact with and I will also organize live video sessions with internationals (these will be recorded for those unable to attend live).

How will the students’ understanding of the work be assessed?

Our aim is to achieve a broad knowledge of world geography, and that students will retain much of this knowledge well after the class has ended. We are not huge fans of tests as a means of assessment but will rather use:

* Quizzes – these will be short and taken during or straight after instruction to check students are paying attention 🙂 They will be able to re-take them if they realized they had been daydreaming.

* Online games are a great way for students to learn where countries are, their capitals etc. Some of these have dashboards for teachers, but in other cases we will require a screenshot as proof of mastery

* Game creation – students will need to research and create games. And then, of course, they will play each other’s games.

* Presentation of their research – this will take different forms but will include short paragraphs, videos, posters, websites and itinerary planning.

The work will take students about 4 – 5 hours each week. They will be able to work anytime they want to – but there will be deadlines and they will have to keep up. On occasion, they will be working with classmates collaboratively and they will be doing peer assessments and interacting with each other in the virtual classroom. So it will be like a regular classroom – just online!

WARNING: Your children may enjoy this so much that they will be begging you to travel. Or maybe FundaFunda should just plan a round-the-world field trip for us all at the end of the course!

Ready to sign up? Visit us on FundaFunda Academy.

Feel free to leave questions in the comments.

 

5 Ways to Make Geography Fun

A couple of months ago while we were driving somewhere, I asked my daughter a geography question which she got wrong. She had just been singing along with the music she was playing – and I pointed out if she was capable of learning all those words she was also capable of remembering Geography facts. Without missing a beat she responded :”Now if Geography was a Disney musical …”

Geography Fun

 

And she has a point. She remembers things that are fun. She remembers words if they are set to good tunes. But she doesn’t remember things that she just has to learn by rote, with no context.

And this is true of most students.

If we don’t want them growing up to give the very funny answers I showcased in my post Geography Funnies to Cry About, we have to find engaging ways to teach.

Here are 5 ideas – and be sure to read to the end and enter the Giveaway!

1. Geography Songs

 

My kids didn’t really like the kiddies Geography Songs on the CDs I bought them, but your kids may. This works better with younger kids, but for older students look out for geography references in regular songs and use those as starting points. Billy Joel has so many geographical references (history too!) in his songs that you can find lots of online quizzes on Geography in his songs.

Listen to We Didn’t Start the Fire and then see how well you do in this quiz:

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2. Movies and TV that highlight different countries

 

We love Amazing Race and have watched it live as a family for years. We love seeing all the cool places the contestants visit and it is a great way to learn about foreign culture. You can find old episodes on various sites on the web.

But movies like the upcoming Paddington Bear and any of the versions of Around the World in 80 Days can be very effective ways of sneaking some Geography in. You can also get all the animated TV episodes for Paddiington Bear cheaply as well as  In a recent geography class I offered Invictus (South Africa), Ghandi (India) and Fiddler on the Roof (Russia) as prizes.

If you use Geography movies in a classroom, be sure to take a look at the great lesson plans offered by Teach with Movies.

3. Jigsaw Puzzles!

 

4D puzzle of New York City

I know this won’t appeal to everyone, but if children like doing jigsaw puzzles there are WONDERFUL map puzzles available. You can find everything from wooden ones with big pieces, to 3D  and even 4D ones. (The 4D ones include the concept of time).

One of our favorites is the world map one where every piece is in the shape of the country it represents.

4. Geography Apps and Online Games

 

Geography App

There are plenty of online games you can find with a quick search and I will be using a lot of these in my online homeschool Geography class, and there are also a lot of apps. My favorite online game is Geoguessr  where you have to guess the location based on photos (you can create your own and make it a bit easier!) and my favorite Geography app is Stack the States™.

 

5. Geography Board and Card Games

 

Geography Board Games

Games are perfect for in the classroom and at home. I have a HUGE pile I have accumulated over the years for the class I teach. The ones I use are FUN, really fun. If they aren’t, children won’t want to play them and then they won’t learn. Take a look at my post on US Geography Games for some ideas. When I feel the need to buy more – I usually just go to Amazon and look at the ratings and reviews of the ones that show up when I search and take it from there.

One game I own 2 versions of is “10 Days in …” You have to use tiles you draw to plan a trip across the continent the game applies to. Not as easy as it sounds.

You can win one of the 10 Days in Africa game by entering our Giveaway below. Please note – this is ONLY for US residents (sorry the rest of you – most of our giveaways are digital but this time it is a physical product)

10 days in africa

a Rafflecopter giveaway

** Note: some of the above links are affiliate links i.e. we may make a teeny profit if you buy something through one of them

Geography funnies to cry about?

Funny world map

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/smokeonit CC BY 2.0

 

Over the years that I have taught geography I have come across many “funnies” (not least from my students). And as a South African, I get asked things like “Do you speak African?” and “I met someone who comes from Ghana, do you know him?” But even as I laugh, the lack of knowledge of our world does also bother me.

I doubt you will get through this 6 minute video without laughing aloud at least once. But really, how can we be failing so badly to teach students very very basic geography?

 

You may have seen this one in which Miss Teen South Carolina gets hopelessly confused.

 

 

And last year Buzzfeed asked a group of people to fill in the countries of Europe on a map. You can see all the results here – and some were actually pretty good, but here is one that will make you laugh.

americans-place-european-countries-on-map-7

 

Unfortunately this lack of knowledge can affect current affairs, watch this:

The point of my post is for us to laugh – but then to stop and think how we can improve the geography knowledge of our children and our students. My next post will list a lot of fun ways for kids (and adults) to learn geography – and it will include a giveaway for a great geography board game. So be sure to sign up for blog post notifications or come and check our blog in the next few days.

And if you homeschool, don’t forget to include geography in your school day or sign your kids up for a class at your co op. Another option is to sign them up for our online class (an adaption of the class I teach at our co op). I incorporate lots of games and fun activities to make it as engaging as possible.

 

FundaFunda Academy’s Fall Courses

 

Fundafunda online classes for homeschoolers

We are very excited to be offering 9 online courses starting this Fall – with more to come in Spring. These classes are intended for homeschoolers but anyone is welcome to sign up.

As always we will be focusing on making these FUN and ENGAGING and full of great CONTENT. No dry text books. No boring lengthy lectures.

All these online classes for homeschoolers will be run similarly to regular classes. There will be classmates – the students will meet in moderated chat rooms and in online conferences (some classes). There will be homework assignments. There will be due dates. There will be grades.

Online classes are not easier than “regular” classes – they are just a different way to deliver instruction so don’t choose this option if you are looking for a quick and easy credit. Instead, choose our courses if you are looking to learn a lot – and to enjoy the learning process.

Grades will reflect how well assignments are completed, but because we want students to do as well as possible, there will always be opportunities to resubmit assignments if they want to get a better grade.

Students can log on and work on their assignments any time they want to. Spanish is the only class that does have one set time each week (noon ET on Tuesdays) where students need to get on their webcams and “go to class”. They will take part in a live discussion which is pretty fun to do.

Here are some of the classes we are offering

Scratch

Online Scratch ClassThis will be a 16 week course and consist of our beginner, intermediate and advanced courses. Scratch is a drag-and-drop language that allows students to easily create games. It is a good way to start learning about programming concepts before progressing to other languages which require users to learn the syntax.

By the end students will be able to program games like Hangman and Space Invaders.

Photography

online photography classThis is a one semester class. For those who remember the children’s program “Fetch” we use a similar style but adapt it for teens. Students taking the course will watch videos each week where 4 teens are taught some aspect of photography and then they are issued a challenge. Once they have watched the teens perform the challenge, students in the class will get to complete the same challenges.

They will also take online quizzes and do various other assignments each week.

Geography

Online Geography CourseStudents will learn geography by watching videos, playing online games and completing enjoyable assignments. There will be about 4 hours work each week as this is intended as a 1 credit class for high schoolers.

Students will be “immersed” in different cultures and it should be an eye-opening year for them.

 

 

 

Spanish 1

SpanishcourseThis is intended as a high school Spanish 1 class. No prior knowledge of Spanish is needed.  The instructor, Suzette LaPorte-Ayo, a native Spanish speaker, taught all my own children Spanish and the three oldest either did well enough on their AP exam to be exempt from languages at college, or they placed into advanced Spanish classes. And my children all really enjoyed the way she taught – which is why we asked her to join our teaching team .

The classes will include video instruction, online games and exercises, quizzes and regular online live discussion times each week.

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To make it easier for you to understand what an online class will be like, we have created demo modules for each course. Each demo is about a week’s work and you can hear / see the teacher and get an idea of the sort of work that will be assigned.
To view the demo classes go to Canvas and use the email student@fundafunda.com and the password tryitout. 

If you think this will be a good fit for your child, then sign up for one of these classes here.

If you want to get updates on our FundaFunda Academy course offerings, just let us know  and we will keep you updated whenever new courses are starting.

Modern Egypt for Kids: Mystery of the Painted Pyramids

Egypt Mystery for Kids

I am teaching a current affairs class this year and covered Egypt a few months ago. In searching the internet for resources I found a lot related to ancient Egypt, but very few modern Egypt activities for kids.

So, I set about creating a fun Egyptian Mystery to introduce students to the history, culture and geography of Egypt.

I must give credit to my daughter, Amy, who actually came up with the idea of a mystery and that it should involve “Culture Culprits” who the students have to track down. She also gave input on some of the puzzles and checked it all for me. My husband did the layout and my son, Jason, photoshopped the one culprit into an Egyptian scene which my husband photographed. So – it ended up as a family affair.

And of course, my class went through it and I did make some adjustments based on their feedback.

Our intention is that this will be the beginning of a series of mysteries where upper elementary and middle school students can learn about a country through solving mysteries. We want this to be affordable for everyone, so they cost only 99 cents and are delivered electronically as a pdf which parents and teachers can make multiple copies of.

Students will need internet access to solve the clues and they are likely to take about 3 hours to work through them all. In my class they worked in groups and took 3 or 4, 50 minute periods to complete.

The mysteries are aimed at 5th – 8th graders.

If you would like one, you can purchase it here and download it immediately.

Syria Lesson Plan

Carlos Latuff [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week I taught a lesson on Syria to my middle school Current Affairs class. I was very fortunate to find out about a twitter chat last Monday night on the very topic (#sschat – various educational topics at 7pm ET every Monday). Many of the ideas that were discussed helped me in coming up with this Syria lesson plan.

While the students were coming into class I played this video of a well known Syrian musician. I wanted them to get a small taste of Syrian culture.

For a general overview of Syria and the current civil war we watched this excellent Prezi presentation. An alternate to this is these Powerpoint slides which have an accompanying fill-in-the-blank worksheet.

Then I divided the students into teams and gave them 15-20 minutes to complete a Syria Webquest. Once they had completed the questions, we discussed their answers, particularly the one on Chemical Weapons.

I completed the lesson by showing them 2 of the short videos available here of children who are now refugees because of the war. This helped them understand how the war was affecting children their own age.

During the twitter chat on ‘Teaching about Syria’ those participating compiled a Google Document with all the resources they had found. It was so useful being able to use that as I prepared!

I emailed the parents and suggested the students play EndGame:Syria (available free online or on mobile devices) at home. This is a tactical game – no blood or gore – but the students will get more familiar with the main players and issues in this war.

Endgame Syria

If you have taught lessons on Syria and found other resources, please share in the comments.

 

Playing your Way round the USA: US Geography Games for Kids

US Geography Board and Card Games

In my geography class I spend a few weeks on US Geography. I use a few periods to play board and card games that teach the states and capitals. I find playing games is a far more effective way of getting the information to stick with most kids, than trying to get them to to do it by rote learning.

Two games work well for the whole class to be involved at once:

USA BingoThis US Bingo has enough sheets for 36 students. Instead of just calling out the names of states, the caller has a choice from 3 sets of clues of varying difficulty. For example, you may call out “Albany is the State capital” and all the students with New York on their cards put down a counter on that square. Other clues contain landmarks, dates of admission and other state trivia.

As this game is based on luck as much as on knowledge, the smartest kids don’t always win – which gives the other kids a fighting chance!

BrainboBrain Box USAx USA is a box with cards from each State. Get the students to sit in a line or circle and give each a card. When you say ‘go’ and turn the time over, they have 30 seconds to study the card and to remember as many facts about that state as possible. When the sand runs out, they pass the card to their partner (one of the students sitting next to them – designate partners before they  start). The teacher then roles the 10 sided dice, and the question corresponding to the number thrown is asked. Each student asks their partner.

If the class is small enough, let the students who got the answer correct keep their cards. If you need to recycle the cards, then keep track of who got theirs correct.Pass the cards 2 or 3 to the right and repeat the process. This is a great way to get kids to learn the facts in a fun way.

I also have periods when I divide the class into groups of 4 and let them play board or card games. The following 3 games work well as a single game lasts 30 minutes or less and are easy to learn. All of them are lots of fun, but do require the students to concentrate on US geography while they are playing.

10 Days in th10 Days In The USA Gamee USA is for 4 people. You have to plot a course across the US by foot, car or plane using exactly 10 cards. You start by each taking 10 cards and then each turn you take new cards and discard ones you don’t want in order to create a perfect journey (ie moving legally from one state to another).

Kids are constantly looking at the map on the board to plot their course – which helps them learn the map without even realizing it!

Scrambled States of America Board GameScrambled States of America game is based on the fun book and DVD by the same name. I play the DVD in class at the beginning of our studies of US Geography and the students all enjoy it even though it is meant for slightly younger kids. As one of them remarked: “It is so silly, it is funny”.

The board game is for 4 people and is very easy to learn. Players are dealt 5 State Cards which they must send home by matching them to criteria on the Scramble Cards.

Scrambled States Card GameScrambled States Card Game is for up to 5 people. 15 cards are laid out in a circle with the draw pile in the middle. Then the dice is thrown and depending on the result players have to match the card on the top of the pile with another card in play that has the same characteristics as required by the dice.

Quick reactions as well as a knowledge of geography are helpful here (ie, don’t try to play against the students. They will probably beat you).

 

I used all the games in a classroom setting, but of course they would work just as well at home played during a family games night.

The links in the post are all affiliate links – doesn’t cost you any more than usual when you buy through them, but I get a small commission.

14 Cows for America: A children’s book about 9/11



When we think about September 11, we usually have feelings of sorrow, horror or even anger. It is not a topic we readily want to discuss with our children. But, this is a beautiful book about what happened after 9/11 which parents and teachers will want to share with  their children.

14 Cows for Americais the true story of how a Masaai man who was studying in New York to become a doctor, goes back to his village in Kenya and shares the store of the tragedy with them. The village is appalled by what happened and wants to show their love and sympathy to the American people on the other side of the world. This book, with its beautiful illustrations,  tells how they did that.

I enjoyed this book not only because it shows a different side to the 9/11 story, but also because it gives a window into another culture. This is an excellent way to integrate geography with current affairs and help students learn more about the world. Make sure to have a globe or world map near at hand so you can show students exactly where Kenya is.

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