DSSEP Home Page “A” Method to Teach Geography

 MaryAnna Taylor
Project Coordinator
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 experience.  

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 differences.  

These activities 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 geography everyday. 

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 questions.

Locate, gather, and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources including maps. 

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 relationships. 

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 data. 

Present geographic information in the form of both oral and written reports accompanied by maps and graphics.

Use methods of geographic inquiry to acquire geo-graphic information, draw conclusions, and make generaliza-tions.

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 and Exploration.

Micucci, C. (1992). The Life and Times of the Apple. New York: Orchard Books.

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