Blog 5: Reflections from a Middle-School Geography Classroom

Earlier I had the opportunity to visit and observe a 7th grade World Geography classroom here in Fairbanks. I learned a great deal and saw how to manage the energetic middle school students.

To begin each lesson, the teacher has a warm-up question, which he calls an “eye-opener”, on the subject of the previous lesson. It’s usually a simple question for students to answer individually, such as “Name three things that the monotheistic religions have in common” and he checks each student’s answer while he takes attendance. I thought this was a practical way to engage the students, remind them of the previous lesson’s topic, and take roll. Of course, with a class of 20+ students this takes some time, but I saw that the students were prepared and the teacher managed to go through the entire class of 22 in a reasonably quick pace.

The teacher used a few different transitions between class activities. He would sometimes simply announce what they would do next, or quietly bridge the activities. For example, when the students were reading a text on Abraham and his importance to the three monotheistic religions, he loaded a Venn diagram on the classroom’s smartboard so that after the reading, they could review what they read by placing terms related to the three religions in the correct circle.

One strategy this teacher used in class that I would like to use in the future is have competitions between the same age classes in the same subjects. He has introduced an online quiz game where students either answer questions on the subject or fill in the names of countries on a map, and earn points for their class team. They can follow their scores against other 7th grade classes online, and seemed very engaged in that activity. It’s a great way to make quizzes and reviews more lively.