How to Teach Geography

How to teach geography to children is not as bad as it sounds and the process is not as far out as you might think. 

 If your child can draw 7 circles and straight lines, I can teach you the seven continents, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and the Equator. Grab your sketch book, a good atlas and you are ready to go. Includes step by step instruction printable and video.

If your child can draw 7 circles and lines, I can teach you the seven continents, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and the Equator.

Grab your sketch book, a good atlas and you are ready to go.  Let’s manage the overwhelm and start at the beginning with how to teach geography to children.

If you told me 5 years ago that I would be teaching and love Geography, I would have thought you were crazy. 

Where do I begin? Well as Julie Andrews says, “Start from the beginning, that’s a very good place to start.” 

If you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you are going. 

In today’s world, I believe that it is important for children to know where they fit into the overall puzzle, to begin to understand history and current events.

Did you know until the 1950’s, children would draw maps in order to study geography?  Now, they read about locations in a book. 

How to teach geography starts with lines and shapes, and then we start to put the puzzle together.

As a Classical Conversation’s tutor, I have taught world geography for over 6 years. I have studied every continent and physical features.  This post will be a part of a multi-post series walking you through how to go from simples lines and circles to more advance drawings.  


Here is a quick video tutorial

I have used this process with children as young as 4 years old.  They key is to take five minutes a day to practice this skill.  The sketchbook makes it easy because the child can draw sequentially on each page.  If you have an older child, it’s a great opportunity for handwriting practice. I have my children include the date on each page.

To start, I divide the sheet of paper into four quadrants. Here is a great map example, MAP. I recommend that you download and print out.  For reference, you will want to add the great circles to the map. 

Looking at the map, draw circles to represent the continents in each quadrant.  Do this as a quick exercise for the next four weeks.  It is important that they child doesn’t start to backslide and draw sloppy circles.  The idea is to understand the approximate location of the continent.

Next, have the child draw the circles and go back and label the circles.  We start out with quick abbrevations like NA = North America, SA = South America.  Depending on the child, I would recommend this exercise for a good two to three weeks.  Again, this is a quick 15 minute daily drill.

Add the Great Circles:  Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and the Equator.  It is up to you and the pace that your child is achieving mastery, but I would recommend at least four weeks.  Yes, I realize it is the same thing over and over again.  That is really the magic of a classical education, repetition.

The next step is to add bodies of water including:  Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean.  Once your child has a mastery of a quick map including all continents, great circles, and bodies of water, it is time to start copy work of spelling out each location.  

Just wait until your child runs to you and says, ” I can spell the Tropic of Capricorn all by myself!”  Better yet, they know it exists, where it is in relation to where they live!  During this process, I am constantly reinforcing locations by asking

  1. What continent do you live on?
  2. What body of water do you swim in when we go to the beach?
  3. Do you live on the East or West Coast?

Another quick tip helping your child to remember North, South, East, and West :

Never Eat Soggy Waffles (The funny little statement follows clockwise and direction)

Wow that seems like a long time, what is my child getting out drawing lines and circles on sheet every day ?

I’m glad you asked, they are developing the follow skills:

  • Hand/Eye Coordination
  • Transferring information from one image to drawing the image yourself
  • Memorizing Continents
  • Memorizing Great Circles
  • Learning direction on a map
  • Handwriting
  • Spelling
  • Practicing Focus and Concentration

During our day, I play NPR’s classical music which I love to use to enrich the experience.  Geography is such a valuable tool, being able to draw the continents and understand their relationship to one another, they can start to fill in the historical puzzle and conflicts that continue today.  

Why not grab a sketch book yourself and enjoy the quite time learning as you are learning how to teach your child geography.  Be sure to grab the Great Circles and Continent Printable to use with your child!

If you liked this post be sure to check out how to get the most of using flashcards with your child.