Over the weekend, I spent countless hours listening to many teachers discuss their struggles with getting students to understand some historical topics, especially those involving location-specific events. This led me to ask how many of those teachers started their courses or units with Geography tasks or introductions. They looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, and then they each explained that they didn't have time to cover all of their history content, much less teach Geography too.
There's the problem!
Teaching Geography IS Teaching History.
Students cannot evaluate historical events without a basic knowledge of Geography. More importantly, they cannot understand our current world conflicts without first having a grasp on World Geography.
All that said, it is still a challenge to cover all of your content, so it's important to include Geographic lessons where they fit best. Here are a few ideas:
- Introduce each unit with a Geography Overview. Have students identify key physical features, important locations, and significant geographic challenges. Take a look at my Middle Ages Mapping Activity for a good example.
- Incorporate the Geography into the lesson. Annotated and Illustrated Timelines are a great tool to cover large amounts of content while also reinforcing skills. Add a Geographic component and students have the full picture of a major event. My Cold War Events Timeline & Mapping Activity covers decades with content, Geographic skills practice, and creativity!
- Make Geography the center of your lesson to examine significant historic events where land played a key role in the event's outcome. My Mapping the Lands of Russia Activity helps students better understand the Geography of Russia to examine its impact on WWI or WWII.
- Introduce a History course with Geography lessons. I always spent the first 3 weeks of my year reviewing everything about Geography. This included reviewing skills and content. But if time does not allow such an intensive review, simply examine Geography's Effect on Settlement. The basic ideas of Geography's impact will set the foundation for future lessons.