Teaching students about geography, one Google Hangout at a time

I'm always looking for creative ways to get my fifth-grade students excited about social studies and geography. Thanks to technology, they're able to see the lessons come to life and visit every state in the country without ever leaving their classroom. One way I’ve done this with my students is through “Mystery Hangouts,” a game a teaching partner introduced to me a few years ago. Last year, I put a fun spin on it and challenged my fifth-grade class to complete what I called the “Race to 50 States.”

I used Google Hangouts Meet to connect my class with another one in an unknown state. To solve the mystery of where the other class was located, students shared fun facts about their state and asked yes or no questions like, “Are you west of the Mississippi River?”

Not only is the game engaging and fun, but it’s also educational. In addition to using their geography knowledge, my students also learned skills in critical thinking, mapping, listening, collaboration, technology and communication. After a few Hangouts Meet sessions, I received so much positive feedback from students and parents alike that I set an ambitious goal for this year’s class: reach all 50 states by the end of the school year.

If this sounds like something your class might be interested in, visit the “Resource” section of the Teacher Center, where I share how to play the game. It’s only a guide, so feel free to tweak the rules for your class. All you need is internet access and maps to get started. Before you know it, your students will be learning more about their country, one mystery location at a time.

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