Delaware Geographic Alliance
How should we teach
Geography? What method(s) can teachers use to help students
think geographically? A resource for teachers at all levels
is Geography for Life:
National Geography Standards prepared by the Geography Education
Standards Project (1994). Though
published in 1994, there are still some teachers who are unfamiliar
with it. Many exemplary teaching strategies included in this
document can be adapted for the implementation of the Delaware
Geography Standards. For this article I will focus on a trade
secret included in this resource that can be utilized to
help students learn geography. It is a strategy that is effective
at all stages of learning.
The five geographic
skills (ask geographic questions, acquire geographic information, arrange geographic information, analyze geographic information, and answer geographic questions) enable students
to do geography (Geography
Education Standards Project, 1994, p. 47).
The words in bold are action words; they are skills that
advance the classroom activities from rote processing of facts
to the higher thinking skills. Geography becomes a cognitive
So how do we put
theory into practice? Here is a simple lesson based on a library
book, The Life and Times of the Apple, by Charles Micucci (1992). Since the book is an informational book about
apples, it includes graphs for the leading apple-growing states
and countries. (Ask)
Before reading the book to the class, the teacher can guide
the students in thinking geographically about apples. Where
do apples grow? Why do they grow in certain states and not in
others? (Acquire and
arrange geographic information). The teacher could have
the students use the graphs in the book to answer the questions.
Or, the teacher can convert this information to tabular form
and have the students create their own graphs (math lesson).
Either way, the next consideration would be, Does the
information in graph format really show whereness?
The next step would
be to use those statistics to create a thematic map of the leading
apple-growing states. On a large United States wall map, the
students could take turns adding the appropriate number of sticky-dots
(or apple stickers) to the leading apple-growing states. Here
is an opportunity to include the appropriate map elements (title,
date, author, legend, and source) on the map. (Analyze geographic information) Now the
students can study the map for geographic patterns, or commonalities.
Where are these states? In certain regions? Do apples grow in
warm weather states or in cool weather states? Is Delaware a
leading apple-growing state? (Answer geographic questions) The students
would now orally present some generalizations about where apples
grow. This could be followed by a writing lesson with a twofold
purpose. In a letter to parents, students could practice
letter-writing skills while sharing with parents the information
the young researchers had acquired about apple growing in the
United States (informative writing).
This activity could lead into a similar geography lesson
about oranges; the students could compare that data with the
apple data and draw some conclusions about similarities and
exemplify processing skills necessary to learn the geography
content and to think geographically. Hopefully, this trade
secret will be one that you can incorporate this week into
your classroom. Geography should not be a one-semester course,
or a unit sandwiched in between Folk Tales and Stones
and Bones. Doing geography is an everyday occurrence.
Primary students learning the route to the cafeteria or county
officials determining a safe location for a retirement facility
are examples of geography
for life. So please have your students do
Grades K-4 Skills.
Students should be given the opportunity to:
Ask Geographic Questions
Acquire Geographic Information
Arrange (Organize) Geographic Information
Analyze Geographic Information
Answer Geographic Questions
Where is it located? Why is it there?
What is significant about its location? How is its location
related to the locations of other people, places and environments?
Distinguish between geographic and non-geographic
Locate, gather, and process information
from a variety of primary and secondary sources including
Make and record observations about the
physical and human characteristics of places.
Prepare maps to display geographic information.
Construct graphs, tables, and diagrams
to display geographic information.
Use maps to observe and interpret geographic
Use tables and graphs to observe and
interpret geographic trends and relationships.
Use texts, photographs and documents
to observe and interpret geographic trends and relationships.
Use simple mathematics to analyze geographic
Present geographic information in the
form of both oral and written reports accompanied by maps
Use methods of geographic inquiry to
acquire geo-graphic information, draw conclusions, and
Apply generalizations to solve geographic
pro-blems and make reasoned decisions.
Geography Education Standards Project (1994). Geography for Life: National
Geography Standards. Washington, DC: National Geographic Research
C. (1992). The Life and
Times of the Apple. New York: Orchard Books.