Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Geography (and so much more) Using GeoGuessr

I have always loved Geoguessr and knew it could be used to practice so many different skills.  It has been a while since I've used it in my classroom.  However, this six weeks our Focus Topic is Geography and I wanted to get my students pumped about learning about the world.  Geoguessr instantly came to mind!

For those that aren't sure what Geoguessr is or how it works, it is a website that provides an image taken somewhere in the world.  Players must look around and use clues to decide where on the map they think the image can be found.  They make a guess and then they are provided with a map showing their guess as well as the actual location.

Before we started, I modeled using the website and explained the process to my students. Using my teacher computer and the projector, we visited Geoguessr together and looked at the image that was randomly provided.  I explained how they needed to use inferencing to make their best guess about where in the world the photograph was taken.  We talked about the clues that we could use to make our inference.  We decided that we could focus on the road signs, the side of the road that the cars were driving on, the climate, and whether the area was rural or urban.  Then, we made our guess.  

The great thing about Geoguessr is that it provides feedback telling the students how far their guess was from the actual location in miles and kilometers.  They also receive points for their guess depending on the distance.

Using this information, students can practice so many different skills.  During this lesson, I asked my students to play 5 rounds.  They kept track of their guesses and the distance between it and the actual location (in miles).  After 5 rounds, they found the average (or mean) of all five guesses.  Then they compared their averages as a table.  The person with the lowest average was the winner!

As I walked around the room, I realized that every single student was engaged and completely focused on the activity.  They were discussing their inferences, justifying their choices, and collaborating to become better at the game.  It became very obvious that my students were making connections...mission accomplished!

I love that Geoguessr provides students with a map.  Students are required to know where the continents are and use important skills to make their best guess.  I feel like geography is sometimes put on the back burner because other standards take priority due to standardized testing.  This activity gives students to practice those other skills while learning about where things are in the world.  
There are so many ways teachers can use this tool in their classroom other than the obvious geography benefits.  In completing this one activity, my students practiced finding the mean (average), adding decimals, rounding decimals, comparing decimals, division, inferencing, and geography.  Not to mention the collaboration, critical thinking, and reflection that my students were using as they worked in groups to complete the assignment.  

Below is a short video that I took while walking around.  My students were so engaged that they didn't even realize what I was doing.   Take a look and notice the level of engagement, collaboration, and excitement as they worked on the assignment.  It was so fun to hear their conversations and realize the connections that they were making.

Geoguessr is completely free and very easy to use.  I would so much rather have a noisy, active, and engaged classroom than a room of students sitting in rows completing a worksheet.  This was such a meaningful experience for my students and they didn't want to leave because they were having so much fun.  Check it out and feel free to share any comments about how you use this tool or plan to use it in your classroom.  


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