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Geography Lesson Plans: The British Isles

Updated on April 24, 2013

Quick Review

If I've got you questioning your own knowledge base about the British Isles, don't despair. Watch the video below. After all, it's important to know what your teaching. If you're confident and would like to continue, by all means, skip the video.

A map like this should suffice
A map like this should suffice | Source

Main Objectives

The British Isles are an interesting topic that most people have a tough time keeping straight. Although one of the most important geographical locations in terms of American foreign relations, many Americans have a tough time characterizing the United Kingdom when compared to its separate countries. Throw in the terms Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and many people become utterly confused. If that’s the case for adults, just think what students of all ages may think. Thus the objectives of this lesson are as follows:

1. Learn the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, Ireland and the British Isles

2. Learn the separate semi-autonomous countries that compose the United Kingdom

Due to easy confusion it is important to teach the information in segments while using differentiated instruction to reach a multiple of learning styles. The lesson will be framed around a pre-assessment and a structured map warm up and will finish with a ticket to leave assignment which will inform the teacher of the level of student mastery.

This map would be useful in showing students the location of each country and then allowing them the chance to correct their maps accordingly
This map would be useful in showing students the location of each country and then allowing them the chance to correct their maps accordingly | Source

Step One

To begin the lesson students will be given a blank map of the British Isles and asked to locate Great Britain, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the five separate countries based on previous knowledge. Then, split into groups of four with one map per group, students will use atlases or online resources to find the following countries:

  1. England
  2. Whales
  3. Scotland
  4. Northern Ireland
  5. The Republic of Ireland

My class usually focuses on collaborative learning and thus many of my lessons center around group activities. However, this lesson can most definitely be structured for individual student activities if that's what a teacher prefers. Nonetheless, once the students are finished a map will be shown on the smart-board and each group will correct their own map. If any problems or questions arise they will be taken care of then. Most students have little problem with this first step, but in case of an oddity be prepared to stop and make sure students become comfortable with these five countries.

Step Two

Once these five countries have been found and discussed, the class will turn to the smart-board for a quick yet informative presentation. Because I'm a big fan of note taking skills students will be asked to take notes on the information presented on the board, but as is the case with all my lessons, this can be altered depending on your teaching style. First and foremost we will review the five semi-autonomous countries once more, but this time I will add new information to delve deeper into the subject. A quick discussion on the capitals will ensue and then small facts about the countries will be introduced although this is a subject I continue with in another lesson.

Towards the end of the of this discussion I begin to teach about the two major geographical locations in the British Isles. These would be the islands of Ireland and Great Britain which as the video above shows, are not actually countries. They refer to geographical features instead of political entities. This is a key piece of information that must be understood before we can continue the lesson. As a quick assessment to see how well students comprehend the material thus far I use an interactive informal assessment that requires the smart-board.

This is the small assessment that has students place the correct countries into the right geographic categories
This is the small assessment that has students place the correct countries into the right geographic categories

The first photo, above, is a simple assignment where students correlate the right countries with the right geographical locations. Each student will be handed a replica of this sheet and will be asked to fill it in correctly. These will be collected and then students will have a chance to show what they know to the class. Once filled in correctly the class will move to the next tiny assessment, below, which is a capital scramble. I love scrambles and tend to use them often in my lessons. Here, students will again get a sheet of their own and do it individually. After, five new students will be selected so that I have a greater knowledge of how many students are understanding the material.

As you can see the capitals are not in their correct locations, and it will be up to the students to change this.
As you can see the capitals are not in their correct locations, and it will be up to the students to change this.

Step Three

For the final step the students will watch a short clip from YouTube describing all they have just learned and throwing into the mix the concept of the United Kingdom. The use of this sort of media is great for audio and visual learners and it will be useful for all students considering the future seems to be a place of video and audio learning. Nonetheless, the clip at the beginning of this hub will be utilized to complete the full understanding of the British Isles. If you missed it above here's another look:

An example of the Venn Diagram activity I do with the students after the short clip above.
An example of the Venn Diagram activity I do with the students after the short clip above.

The video's creator speaks quickly so it might be a good idea to warn students about the nature of the video. It's fast paced and they need to pay close attention to the details. After the clip, students will participate in a full class discussion about their findings in the video. These ideas will be written on the white board and will be copied into their notes for future reference. A final in-class assessment will put all of this together. Similar to the video, a square Venn diagram of sorts will be used to finalize the lesson. For each red rectangle students will be required to fill in the appropriate information. Once filled in correctly, each student will draw a box over what formulates the United Kingdom. These will be passed in and, with the pre-test and other small-scale assessments, can be used to judge the effectiveness of the lesson.

These blank maps are perfect for the homework assignment. It's what I used for the pre-assessment at the beginning of class and helps pinpoint where students are going wrong and how well they picked up the material
These blank maps are perfect for the homework assignment. It's what I used for the pre-assessment at the beginning of class and helps pinpoint where students are going wrong and how well they picked up the material

Homework

What good would a class be without some homework?! To follow up on this lesson, I assign students a new blank map of the region. Their job is to show me their mastery by filling in the map in the following way:

1. The Island of Ireland- Bracketed in green and labeled in the same color

2. The island of Great Britain bracketed in black and labeled the same color

3. The country of the Republic of Ireland shaded in green

4. The country of Northern Ireland shaded in orange

5. The country of Scotland shaded in blue

6. The country of Whales shaded in brown

7. The country of England shaded in red

8. The political unit of the United Kingdom will be circled in black


I am a big fan, especially in the middle school years to give students a chance at some extra-credit. In this circumstance I give them the option of going two steps further and label the capitals of each separate country and research one distinct cultural fact for each state. I either cancel out a missed homework or count is an extra quiz grade, but if you choose to use the extra-credit I'm sure you have your own methods.

Well, I hope this little lesson plan helped in your endeavors to teach the British Isles in your geography class. I know it worked in my classes and hope it does the trick in yours!

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      gfbv 2 years ago

      Hi.

      I thought this did a good job of explaining the baffling intricacies of these islands' states and nations to an outsider, but there are a couple of factual inaccuracies in the video I'd like to flag up.

      There is no element of theocracy in the UK constitution. The monarch's authority derives from Parliament, not from God, as was established de facto by the execution of Charles I in 1649 and de jure by the Act of Settlement in 1701. There are established churches with(mostly vestigial) constitutional ties to the state in England and Scotland, but only in England is the monarch the head of the established church.

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      mangle 2 years ago

      hello i am 8 years old and i would very much need some help if you can help tell me.

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      Amy 13 months ago

      While I enjoyed reading your page, I noticed two errors that need correction. In Step One and in Homework, The country of Wales has been misspelled. I hope the webmaster can adjust the spellings. Let the WHALES swim in the ocean. Cheers!

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