One fun way to learn geography is through movement. Step from one piece of geography to the next so that you learn kinesthetically where rivers, states, cities, etc are in relation to one another.
The problem is how/where to find maps that larger enough, durable enough and don’t cost too much.
For my Texas history class, I wanted large maps for my students to split up into groups to “step” through geography. The maps needed to be large and I needed several (I had almost 30 kids and gathering around one map was not ideal).
My husband suggested contractor’s paper (we got a large roll from Lowes). It’s pretty durable and relatively inexpensive. I used an old Rand McNally road map as my guide to trace a template/pattern onto the contractor’s paper. I cut out the template and used it to trace (with black sharpie) my large map onto the contractor paper.
Some tips for making this work (I learned the hard way!):
1. Look over your map carefully. When using a road map as your template, note that the map may continue on both sides. I had noted that before I began. However, what I didn’t notice was that much of the map was repeated on both sides. I had to line it up and I ended up wasting space and having some difficulty. (I could have made the process easier by planning better).
2. Buy a large enough roll of contractor’s paper. When you were looking at the size of your map, note the dimensions.
3. Lay out the roll of paper where it will lay flat, so that you are not having to hold it down with books. I did it the easier way on my second map, but on the template and on the first map, I had to fight the paper curling in on me as I traced. Plus, it if is wanting to curl up, the map will be more difficult to use.
So easy solution, just unroll the paper opposite of the way it is curling.
Ok, now what to do with these large maps?
Learning through movement. Have students “step through” pieces of geography while saying them.
For Texas we learned the various regions of Texas. Students took turns stepping in the regions and saying the geography in that order. For example, start at the Gulf of Mexico, step forward to the Coastal Plains. Step northwest slightly to Edwards Plateau, then slightly north to the Central Hills, then north to the Central Plains. Westward (panhandle) to the Great Plains, to the south and west to the Mountains and Basins, and one more step back south to Mexico.
Add features to the map. Have your students add features to your map as you learn them. This could mean adding rivers, coloring the Rivers and Gulf blue, or adding cities or mountains. Label these features or just draw them in unlabeled.
Hang them up. Display the map for reference.
For more information about the Texas history class and curriculum, check out this post.
Texas History– Flags.