What is a Day 1 activity to introduce geography to your students?


By this point in the chat, most people’s heads are spinning with conversation and ideas. I wanted to give everyone a chance to slow down and share some awesomesauce (ok, spell check didn’t underline awesomesauce as being incorrectly spelled…. AWESOMESAUCE!). I was hoping to gain some new insights and ideas for ice-breaker activities and Day 1 stories to hook students’ imagination and curiosity. There is certainly a variety of activities that participants put forth, and a few I would LOVE to try out in future years.

My own day 1 activity is a conversation about shifting our perspective on the very nature of time and why our time as a class is important. I’m not going to get into the whole thing right now since I’ve blogged about it before so please read all about it here. It’s one of my core beliefs and I teach from this perspective daily.

I have to start with a tweet from @GeoPenny that just made me laugh at loud (LOL for those of you keeping score at home).

I had never seen the website for Johnny Cash has been everywhere. Holy shit that was funny! It’s appropriate for high school students (there’s an image of Johnny flipping the bird at the end of the song… no biggie these days but in the spirit of full disclosure) and maps out Johnny Cash’s song “I’ve been everywhere, man”. It even tracks the total distance traveled in kilometers. This is one of those beautiful creations that gets to the heart of why I love geography so much. By combining mapping and art/music, students get the song stuck in their head AND they get a great look at how geography influences the creation of art. And Johnny Cash is the bomb-diggity.

@GeoPenny also had an awesome tweet about loving our world. Check out the video from The Discovery Channel. I should put this on my class website for parents to watch (and get the song stuck in their heads)

I love getting students to use their passions to start thinking about geography. @jmgarner2003 does an activity that I found to be brilliant in a British sort of way…

Using a popular book or series and then having students map out the locations that occur within the pages is a great way to get students to realize that geography is happening all the time, all around them, even in the pages of their favorite Harry Potter book. The better we understand spatial and relative locations around the world, the more sense it makes and our experience of things we enjoy, improves. Yay!

A short tweet by @geteach got a lot of attention by doing a very simple and small activity. The simplicity of it was really profound and it’s making me rethink how I approach mapping. He starts with a question:

By making geography personal in an immediate sense, he is getting students to stop and be reflective in the moment. This is the mark of a master teacher. Sometimes the way into a student’s heart and mind is to ask the right question at the right moment. I love this approach and would love to see a video of how it plays out. It’s not overwhelming and not too complicated but directly links to the power of geography and the importance it plays in our everyday lives. Cool.

All the participants in the chat had a variation on first day conversations and activities that I found to be captivating and engaging. The final tweet I wanted to share today belonged to @caranowou.

His activity is similar to many other participants but he included the upside down map of the world.

This map is wonderful. I’ve used it before and needed a reminder to keep using it every year. His tweet reminded me that geography is all about perspective. Perspective comes up when trying to decide how to define geography, how to use it, and how to incorporate it into our daily lives. It was a poignant reminder that as the expert in the room we have our own perspectives and biases that we bring into class. Acknowledging them publicly with our students is modeling how we want our students to approach their studies over the course of the year. 

What is you favorite way to introduce geography to students at the start of the school year?

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