The Great European Challenge - Simply Creative Teaching

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The Great European Challenge

One of the geography standards for my sixth graders requires them to have a broad understanding of the countries and capital in Europe and the Americas. As I was planning this, I had a few things I needed to figure out:
   1. What does a broad understanding look like?
   2. Do I start with Europe or the Americas?
   3. How can I make this engaging?

I decided I’d share with you all a few ideas I’m implementing as I’m teaching this standard. To really kick-off this standard, I made a HUGE hype out of it. I came up with THE GREAT EUROPEAN CHALLENGE and ran around the classroom high-fiving students.

And they were all like, “What is WRONG with our teacher?!?!” But whatever.

I decided to narrow down the countries in Europe to 24… I figured I’d pick 24 of the major countries & capitals and call that a “broad understanding.” We’re taking one month to study all of these, and each week we’re taking a quick map quiz to see how many we can name.

So here’s some ideas you could use in case you’re working on some similar geography (whether its states & capitals or other countries):

1. Give the kids a crazy challenge name & kick off the challenge with a bang – You HAVE TO GET INTO IT!

2. Learn WITH your kids. I knew I didn’t have all of the European countries and capitals memorized, and I TOLD my kids that! I’m learning right along with them!

3. Let your kids create different ways to learn the material. My students came up with a variety of ideas including: flash cards, online games/quizzes, dry erase maps using sheet protectors, fun phrases – I was quizzing a student on her flash cards and she had trouble coming up with Dublin, so I told her, “It rhymes with bubblin’…” It made her laugh, and now over half the class remembers it because of that. WHATEVER WORKS!

4. Kahoot! When we were coming up with different ways to study, a group of students said, “Can you find us a Kahoot to play for this?” YES. DONE. There were so many public Kahoots that I didn’t even have to make one.

5. Today’s Country & Capitals — Because I used to teach primary, we always had sight words all over the room, and we even had a Sight Word of the Day… I figured, why not have a Country & Capital of the Day? If I post it all over the room, they HAVE to learn it, right?!

My students still have 3 weeks until the end of the challenge, but even after just one week I’m seeing HUGE gains. Students who couldn’t find a single country in Europe can now name over 10. Some can even name almost 20 of the 24. AND WE’RE HAVING FUN!

What are some ways you teach these geography standards?

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