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Creative Ways to Teach the Continents

Meryl van der Merwe taught 5th through 8th grade and has used these ideas in her classroom.


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.

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 seven 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 seven 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 four to six. 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 two, they 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 three, 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 seven continents and five 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.

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Once the kids know where each continent is, you call out a clue e.g., "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 into teams of three or four 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 four. 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.

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

Paulette Pipes on August 30, 2019:

Thank you! These are such great ideas!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on August 03, 2015:

Great tips for teaching kids geography.

anonymous on May 27, 2013:

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.

TanoCalvenoa on March 24, 2013:

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

Lee from Derbyshire, UK on January 09, 2013:

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

anonymous on September 10, 2012:

@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!

anonymous on September 06, 2012:

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

rawwwwwws lm on July 06, 2012:

YAY more geography and maps I love this lens!

anonymous on February 27, 2012:

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

anonymous on October 16, 2011:

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

stachelford on September 26, 2011:

Liked the continent song!

franstan lm on August 10, 2011:

I wish I had this lens when I was teaching.

Shannon from Florida on July 13, 2011:

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

moonlitta on July 05, 2011:

Fun and useful lens-Squid Angel blessed~

lasertek lm on May 11, 2011:

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 on May 11, 2011:

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 from Tacoma, WA on December 10, 2010:

These look like good games. Angel blessed!

Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on December 04, 2010:

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!

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on November 09, 2010:

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

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on October 04, 2010:

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

anonymous on September 10, 2010:

Great teaching lens. Good luck on the home schooling.

Yvonne L B from Covington, LA on September 10, 2010:

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

anonymous on September 03, 2010:

@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.

Meryl van der Merwe (author) from USA on August 25, 2010:

@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.

anonymous on August 25, 2010:

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

Meryl van der Merwe (author) from USA on February 21, 2010:

@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)

Spook LM on February 21, 2010:

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

KarenTBTEN on January 19, 2010:

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

JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on December 08, 2009:

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 on October 31, 2009:

Great suggestions on how to teach the continents!

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