Globe and Map Skills

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On this page, you’ll find ideas for utilizing maps and globes in your classroom. The article below is a guest post by Robert Lobitz and contains a sponsored link. Robert is a globe enthusiast and huge advocate of using globes as a teaching aid. Thank you, Robert, for sharing this information with us!

Globally Conscious: 5 Ways to Use Your Classroom Globe

In this age of high-tech everything, those very old school globes that still sit in the corner of many classrooms may seem like an anachronism but they are as useful as ever. Actually, more useful.

The fact of the matter is that too many Americans have a woeful lack of knowledge about the rest of the world. We’ve all heard those scary surveys that come out from time to time showing how little knowledge many Americans have of even the most basic geographical facts, but that point was brought home to me personally during my pre-teaching days when I held a secretarial position at a reasonably large company. One day a superior came to me desperate and confused because of something a client had said to him on the phone. “Is India in Europe?” he asked, genuinely clueless. I showed him that India was, in fact, in Asia by using a globe we had handy. I forgot to mention, by the way, that we were an international sales division.

They might be ultra-low-tech, but globes are an outstanding 3-D representation of the world. They are obviously very useful for straight-up geography lessons but there are few creative additional ways I like to use my classroom globes when I’ve got some extra time in class and the kids seem open to something a bit different.

1. Current events I’ll ask my students what news stories they’re hearing about. I’ll try to steer them away from any local items and try to steer them toward something happening far away. I’ll even allow some (not too trashy or controversial) story about their favorite superstar’s doings, as long as it takes place in another part of the world. I’ll then use the globe to show them the location of the story and give them a little bit of information about the place and maybe a bit of history of the area. One of the globes I use has wheels on it so I can take it around to the kids to make sure they have a good look at the place and note the physicality of it. (I.e., is it near an ocean, does it have a lot of mountains, etc.)

2. Find the old country I occasionally like to play games where I use a random number generator on my computer to select a student at random. I’ll ask her to name the country her family comes from or, if there’s more than one, the one she hears about the most at home. Sometimes this takes a bit of digging, but that, too, can be educational. If the pupil is a “Heinz 57,” as so many of us are, or simply doesn’tknow specifically enough, I’ll just ask her to name the one that sounds the nicest or pick one at random if she’s stuck. Then, we’ll find the country on a map and I’ll have the kids look it up in an online encyclopedia. Along with the basic info, I’ll sometimes throw in some fun facts of my own.

3. Virtual World Traveller I’m lucky to have a few good friends who teach in foreign countries and in some U.S. states that are pretty distant from my own home base. It can be tricky to arrange on account of time zones, but sometimes I can set it up so that we can actually talk to another class via Skype or Google Voice and even see each other — and where we are — using a webcam. We basically, try to explain to each other where we are on the globe and what it’s actually like to live in our respective locales in terms of weather, topography, and what not. It’s a great way to help kids understand that people who are not so different from them really do live in all these countries we’re teaching them about!

4. History booster This is somewhat more traditional, but often during history lessons I’ll realize that the kids don’t really have a clear idea of where the events are taking place. Later on, I’ll sometimes take the globe with me during quiet study time to give the kids a chance to really take a look at the place in question and discuss in small groups how the geography of the area might have influenced the historical period we’ve been learning about.

5. Global Roulette This is a good one for the end of a long week when the kids are really starting to get restless. I’ll divide up the room into seven teams and randomly assign each of them a continent. I’ll invite two students up from different teams. One to spin it as fast as possible. I’ll blindfold the other student and let her stop it with her finger. Whichever continent her finger is on, or nearest if she hits a body of water, is the winner. However, in order to get the prize — usually an educational but fun comic book — the winners have to either tell me something about the continent or ask me a thoughtful question, which I’ll either answer on the spot or research and tell them about later.

More Ideas

I got this gigantic map for free from the Highlights magazine School Program (you send in subscription slips signed by parents to get really high quality resources like this- even if parents don’t order!). We “make the map our own” by adding sticky notes to places we have connections with.

Now What?

American History Activities
Fun Social Studies Ideas
Simplifying Science
World History Activities

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Angela was a classroom teacher for 11 years and currently works as an instructional coach and educational consultant based in New York City. She's created a webinar series on pro-active behavior management and has written 3 books for educators. Check out the blog and free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

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