Teaching Geography

Teaching Geography

Teaching Geography

Teaching Geography


From leading geography educator Phil Gersmehl, this volume presents a complete conceptual framework and many hands-on ideas for effective geography instruction in today's middle and secondary classrooms. The focus is on the "whats" and "hows" of helping students develop spatial thinking skills while learning about the land, climate, economy, and culture of places around the world. Nearly 100 engaging activities are provided in reproducible transparency masters that can be photocopied from the book or projected from the accompanying CD-ROM, which also contains information about national and state geography standards and animations that model the skills discussed. Featuring standards-based curriculum materials and assessments, this is an ideal pre-service or in-service text as well as a practical resource that teachers will want to bring back to their classrooms.


In 1984, a group of geographers met to decide how to describe the core ideas of geography for classroom teachers and administrators. One tangible result of their deliberation was a 28-page brochure entitled Guidelines for Geographic Education: Elementary and Secondary Schools. This document asserted that teachers should organize geography classes around five fundamental themes: location, place, relationships within places (interaction), relationships between places (movement), and region.

Ten years later, this modest document had achieved the status of the Bible or the Koran among some educators. Conferences were being organized around the use of [the five themes] in geographic education. Teachers were being exhorted to design units on each of [the five themes.] Textbooks were being written with [the five themes] as chapter titles or section headings. Courses were being approved or rejected on the basis of their use of [the five themes.] When the National Geography Standards were published in 1994, many people criticized them because they lacked the clarity and simplicity of the five themes.

Eight years later, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 named geography as a core discipline and mandated the creation of state standards. Many people wanted these standards to use the language and focus of the five themes.

I hate to say, therefore, that much of the attention given to the five themes has been seriously misguided.

People have been talking about themes, using theme language, and recommending ways to teach according to themes without understanding what a theme really is. In doing so, they have been produc-

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