“Fewer than one-third of the nation’s students achieve at or above the proficient level in geography,” according to the National Coalition for History. Chances are a high school student won't not know which 10 countries the Sahara Desert covers or that Guyana borders Brazil. Grab their attention with exciting group challenges and weekly activities to pique their interest in the world around them.
Where in the World Is
Test the students’ knowledge of country locations with a team activity. Hand out worksheets with a list of random countries. As a team, the students should collectively decide on which continent each country on their list belongs. The team with the most correct answers wins the activity. For an individual activity, hand out a world map with country outlines to each student. Post a new picture of a famous landmark on the board each week. When students correctly show you where the landmark belongs on their maps, they win a point. At the end of the quarter, whichever student has the most points wins a small reward.
Around the World
Draw on the spirit of competition among peers to quiz the students. Start by having all the students sit in their normal desks. Place a small buzzer or bell on one desk at the corner of the room, and have the two closest students stand next to the desk. Ask them a geography question. The first student to ring the bell can answer the question. If he answers correctly, he moves on to the next classmate, and the other student sits in the desk he vacated.
Social Studies Olympics
At the beginning of the quarter, assemble teams of countries within a classroom. Assign the countries a list of tasks, from creating a country map to making a Power Point presentation on fun facts about that area. Each task that they complete adds team points toward their goal. Any team to make it past a set number of points can win an award at the end of the quarter. To ensure participation, turn the activity into an individual “sport” instead, giving each student a choice of countries inside of a continent. Provide a selection of assignments -- some individual and some collective with the whole continent.
Passport Stamp Activities
Add an element of the world traveler to the classroom with a choice of passport activities. Give each student a passport booklet purchased from a craft store or made from construction paper. Students must then visit various country stations around the room where they have to answer questions correctly to have their passport stamped. If you want to weave this activity into your curriculum across the quarter instead, add a bonus “passport” question to each quiz. If they answer the question correctly, they get a stamp in that page of their passport. Celebrate the end of the quarter with small candies or treats from the countries you studied.