Beacon Lesson Plan Library

How Can We Organize Study of a Given Place?

Michelle Gowan
Liberty County Schools


The Five Themes of Geography is an organized way to study any area of the world. It is the adopted method of the National Geographic Society. This is a beginning of the year cooperative group activity where students embark in discovery of basic facts about an assigned continent and are asked to organize their information into categories. The Five Themes model is taught and students reshuffle their information appropriately and make a display and class presentation of their findings.


The student uses graphic organizers and note-making to clarify meaning and to illustrate organizational pattern of texts.

The student extends and refines ability to use mental maps of selected regions (for example, mountains chains, bodies of water).


-Copies of atlases, social studies textbooks on geographic regions for each group
-Data Chart, one each group (see Associated Files)
-Five Themes of Geography Rubric, one each group (see Associated Files)
-Web link information to use as a handout or computer or transparency lesson
-Poster board, one each group
-Markers, one each group


1. Make copies of Fast Facts handout, one per group.
2. Insure students have research materials: their textbook, atlases, etc.
3. Make copies of the Five Themes Rubric, one per group.
4. Have Five Themes information found on weblink available for presentation either via transparency or computer projection or handout.
5. Organize students into cooperative groups of four to five students and have assigned continent ready for Day 1. (Optionional: Write the names of the continents on strips of paper and allow students to draw their continent.)


Day 1
1. The teacher presents the title of the lesson to the students and allows time for brief discussion.

2. Assign students into cooperative groups (if not in groups already) and assign a continent for study.

3. Hand out one Fast Facts handout per group and allow class time for groups to collect at least twenty facts about their continent using their textbooks, atlases, etc. Share with students that they will need to organize their facts into at least three categories before the end of the period.

Day 2
1. Review activities of Day 1 and discuss categories selected by groups. Allow groups to briefly share their reasons.

2. Present the title of the lesson again and ask the advantages of studying a place using an organizer or model.

3. Explain that the National Geographic Society has generated an approved model for study of geography. This model creates consistency in the geographic world so most information is organized this way. Reinforce with students the need for consistency when studying anything.

4. Share and discuss the Five Themes of Geography information from the University of Alabama weblink via transparency, computer projection, or handouts.

5. Distribute the Five Themes Rubric and discuss with students. Announce deadline for posters.

6. Allow time for students to work.

Day 3
Students continue to work on posters.

Day 4
Group presentations.


1. As a group, students will complete the continent data chart with at least twenty facts about their continent. Those groups with less facts will be encouraged to continue searching until the minimum facts are derived.
2. Students will work in groups to create at least three categories in which to organize their facts from #1 and will explain their reasons in an oral presentation to the class. The teacher will circulate among groups to insure that three categories are attained and that students are placing their facts under a category for the presentation until this is accomplished.
3. Use the Five Themes of Geography Poster Rubric for final sorting into the Five Themes of Geography model. (See attached file.)


1. When assigning cooperative groups, distribute students with special needs or low-achieving students with at least one high achieving student.

2. Final Five Themes product could be a PowerPoint presentation.

Web Links

This is an excellent overview of each of the Five Themes of Geography. This web site is highly recommended for the teacher's class presentation about the Five Themes of Geography.
The Five Themes of Geography
On-line rubric making program. The rubric for this unit may be accessed, copied, and/or displayed for students from this link.

Attached Files

Five Themes of Geography Poster Rubric.     File Extension:  pdf

Fast Facts Handout.     File Extension:  pdf
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