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Creative Ways to Teach the Continents

Updated on January 23, 2017
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Meryl van der Merwe taught 5th through 8th grade and has used these ideas in her classroom.

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Fun Ways to Teach the Continents

Are you looking for fun, creative ways to teach the continents? I have taught 5th through 8th graders and developed a number of fun games I can share with you. These games will also work with younger students. If you try to 'teach' kids by lecturing to them, they are unlikely to learn much. But, turn the lesson into a game, and they will be sad when the period is over.

Songs and videos can also be a good teaching technique. These work better with younger students (early elementary). I have included some examples here, too.

I hope these ideas will help you develop continents lesson plans that your classes will enjoy and learn from at the same time.

You can add excitement to any game by adding prizes. Small inexpensive items like pencils or candy are sufficient to keep kids motivated.

Pin the Plane on the Continent

This is an adaptation of 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey'. Get a large sheet of paper that you can pin at the front of the class. Draw the world map on it. It doesn't need to be real detailed - all you are trying to do is familiarize students with which continent is where. Give each student a piece of paper in the shape of a plane. Let them write their names on the plane.

Write the name of each continent on a piece of paper and place the 7 pieces of paper in a jar or bowl or bag. Let students come up one at a time and draw out a piece of paper. Blindfold them, spin them around and then lead them to the map and let them try to fly their plane to the continent they drew. Make sure you have candy for all the students who are successful.

Survivor-style Quiz

This is the favorite game in my class. I got the idea from the quizzes on Survivor where each contestant has a chalkboard, or an answer cube or something similar and Jeff Probst asks a question and they all have to hold up their answer. My class meets in the sanctuary of a church, so I start them all off behind the last pew. If they answer a question correctly, they move forward pew by pew. First one to the front is the winner.

You either need to supply each student with a chalkboard or pieces of paper to write their answers on, or you can give each one 7 pieces of paper with the names of the continents and they hold up the correct answer. Questions should vary in difficulty as you want every child to be able to move forward at least once, but you also don't want them all 'winning'.

Map Drive

This game is based on a British game I grew up playing - Beetle Drive. Each player needs a copy of a simple world map. You can print one here. Divide the class into groups of 4-6. Each group needs a dice. Players take turns rolling the dice. Each number rolled is equated with part of the map

  1. South America, North America
  2. Europe, Asia
  3. Africa, Antarctica, Australia
  4. Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean
  5. Arctic Ocean, Southern Ocean
  6. Indian Ocean

So, if a player rolls a 2, he can fill in the word Europe or Asia in the correct place on the map. Play passes to the next person. If they roll a 3, they can fill in Africa, Antarctica or Australia on their map. If they roll a number and they have already filled in all continents / oceans associated with that number, they miss a turn. Play continues until someone in the class has filled in all 7 continents and 5 oceans and they shout MAP!

Run to the Continent

This is a popular game when the weather is beautiful outside. I made it up at the end of winter, when we had an unexpectedly warm day and the kids were desperate to get outdoors.

You need to designate parts of the area you are playing in as each of the continents. You can either say - the tree is South America, the bleachers are Europe etc, or you can make signs with the continent names on them and put them in the correct places relative to each other. I think the latter would be better, but as I did it on the spur of the moment, I just had to use what was available.

Once the kids know where each continent is, you call out a clue eg "This continent is directly south of North America". They should all rush to South America. The last one to arrive is 'out' and helps you determine who gets to the next place last. A variant on this would be to divide the kids in teams of 3 or 4 and each time a different kid from each team has to respond to the clue. The children who first get to each continent correctly, score a point for their team.

Make up your own questions - or use the ones I made mentioned under 'Survivor-style Quiz'

The Continents Song

There are various versions of the Continents song you can teach your students. This is a great way to teach the basics to early elementary. Youtube is full of examples - here are some I recommend.

World Floor Map Jigsaw Puzzle

I use this as one of a number of activities when I teach the continents (I have classroom helpers who make this possible). I just have one jigsaw puzzle and students work on it in groups of 4. I time them to see which group can finish the fastest. Of course, if you have lots of money at your disposal it would be great to buy multiple copies so all the students could work on theirs at the same time.

Melissa & Doug World Map Floor Puzzle, 33 Pcs, 2X3-Feet
Melissa & Doug World Map Floor Puzzle, 33 Pcs, 2X3-Feet

This jigsaw has just 33 pieces so is perfect for younger students. Larger ones (up to 55 pieces) are also available,

 

Any other ideas for fun geography lesson plans? - Add YOUR creative ways to teach the continents

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      i taught my 4 year old triplets the continents with an easy song sung to freres jacques - "there are seven, there are seven, continents, continents, europe, asia, africa, north and south america, antarctica, australia". it worked magically.

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      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I didn't know there were songs naming the continents.

    • leesholden profile image

      Lee 4 years ago from Derbyshire, UK

      You need a really cool gimmick, like My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets (I'll never forget that one!)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Ocenas 5 (sung to the tune of "My Darling Clementine")

      There are 5 oceans,

      There are 5 ocenas,

      There are 5 oceans in our world.

      Atlantic and Pacific,

      Southern, Arctic, and Indian.

      There's Atlantic and Pacific,

      Southern, Arctic, and Indian.

      There's Atlantic and Pacific,

      Southern, Arctic, and Indian.

      *Very simple! I credit a third grade teacher I observed for this song!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      cool song but i didn't really learn anything.... it almost put me to sleep:]

    • rawwwwwws lm profile image

      rawwwwwws lm 5 years ago

      YAY more geography and maps I love this lens!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Officially there are 5 oceans. Has anyone come across a song/video that includes the Southern Ocean?

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      We just did a fun project to learn the continents positions and to practice making a mental map in our heads (similar idea to the pin the plane on the map idea).

      Drawing the Continents by Memory and Blindly Drawing Landmarks http://tiny.cc/lzvmk

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      stachelford 5 years ago

      Liked the continent song!

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 6 years ago

      I wish I had this lens when I was teaching.

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 6 years ago from Florida

      Fun ideas! I love using songs to teach! Liked & blessed.

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      moonlitta 6 years ago

      Fun and useful lens-Squid Angel blessed~

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      a blank map.. :) btw, great lens!

      If you have time maybe you can visit our lens: Homeschooling 101: Guide to Free Curriculum and Other Resources.

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 6 years ago

      Very informative and great looking lens. Awesome job!

      If you have time maybe you can visit our lens: Homeschooling 101: Guide to Free Curriculum and Other Resources.

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 6 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      These look like good games. Angel blessed!

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      I've never heard the continents song. The only other thing I can possibly think of is the former locations of the continents (where they were in prehistoric times... Pangea, etc.), but this lens is great as is!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Oh this is beautiful. You have displayed it so creatively. Wonderful.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      You have lots of good ideas! I miss having kids to homeschool. (They are adults now.)

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great teaching lens. Good luck on the home schooling.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 6 years ago from Covington, LA

      Great teaching ideas. Everyone, young and old should be able to read a world map and know the location of the continents.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: My daughter is enrolled in Kindergarten this year (will be 6 in January) and she is currently working on the continents in her History class. This is what the first couple of history lessons are focusing on for her.

    • MerylV profile image
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      Meryl van der Merwe 6 years ago from USA

      @anonymous: I think it depends on each child what they are ready to learn at each stage of their development, but you can start teaching geography from a young age. I think by 6 or 7 kids should have a general understanding of how many continents there are, which one they live on and the oceans on each side of it. Read stories set in other countries and then get out an atlas or globe and talk about what continent that country is on. Keep it fun and relevant to their lives so it is not just some abstract concept.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you for all your great ideas. I am a parent of a seven year old (second grade) and a three year old and would like to know at what grade , kids should know their continents and just a basic level of geography. thank you

    • MerylV profile image
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      Meryl van der Merwe 7 years ago from USA

      @Spook LM: Ha Ha ... well, I could do a Spelling Lens dedicated to you first ... will work on a lens on how to teach captials(!) soon. I do have a real fun way to do it! (For those who are mystified by Spook's comment - it refers to a post on Squidu forums)

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      As a teacher, I can say that games really do help kids learn the basic facts. You have some fun geography ideas here.

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 7 years ago

      Looks and sounds like fun. Now how do you teach them capital's or is that capitol's?

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      What wonderful ideas you have! I'll be trying these with my kids soon. I think they will really like the 'survivor' one.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      Great suggestions on how to teach the continents!