Take your students around the world in one class period!
By using highly-engaging online ESL geography resources, you can map out culture and exciting destinations in English.
Let your students explore the majestic corners of the earth from their desks while using their ESL skills to navigate new lands!
How ESL Geography Can Chart Student Success
Incorporating geography into your ESL lessons can help your students learn English in a variety of ways. They can explore English using materials such as videos, fact-finding sheets and images, among other ESL-minded resources. From National Geographic to Pinterest, there are valuable ESL gems ready to be discovered.
Your students can also uncover and learn a wide range of ESL skills in one ESL geography lesson. Listening, reading, grammar, vocabulary building and communication all serve as keys to mapping success. Most geography resources can be complementary to one another as well.
Classroom activities of this sort are also an excellent change of pace from traditional textbook learning. Your students will explore and engage with fresh facts that only geography can produce. You can even tailor ESL geography lessons to your students’ country if you’re teaching abroad.
Bridging the cultural gap, the following ESL resources certainly offer a bit of learning for all ages, interests and English levels.
6 Awesome Online Resources to Put ESL Geography on Your Classroom Map
1. National Geographic Travel Videos
National Geographic travel videos visually connect ESL students to places and cultures. You and your class can explore nearly everywhere in the world with this resource. Most of the videos are less than five minutes long, giving your class plenty of time for rich discussion. There’s even a kids’ section you and your younger learners can explore together.
This sample activity will bring the Egyptian pyramids to your class:
- First watch the video to brush up on your pyramid knowledge.
- Begin the activity by introducing some vocabulary your students can refer to while watching the video. You should also pair the video with a map or Google Earth, showing students where Egypt is. Vocabulary building can begin with words and phrases like pyramid, taking off, extraordinary, airport, camel, destination and tomb.
- Next, watch the video with your class. Once finished, field questions your students may have about what they saw and heard.
- Watch the video again to reinforce the ESL geography comprehension.
- Let students discuss the video in small groups. Once your students are feeling fairly comfortable, it’s time to quiz them.
Here are four quiz questions you can use for this ESL geography video:
- What was the first scene in the video showing?
- How many years have people been going to the Egyptian pyramids?
- What was the main purpose of the pyramids?
- How tall is the largest pyramid?
The ESL skills your class will practice using this world-traversing resource include listening, vocabulary building, answering questions in English and communication.
2. YouTube Travel Videos
Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world? That’s certainly a fun fact for your students, and it also makes YouTube a great place to find videos to map out an explorative ESL geography lesson plan.
Simply do a quick search by typing “travel” into the YouTube search engine bar. You’ll find YouTube videos ranging from TED Talks to videos uploaded by individual travel buffs.
Here’s a sample YouTube activity you can use for your next lesson:
- For this example activity you and your class will be traveling to Thailand. This video has plenty of places, animals and awe-inspiring scenes to intrigue any student.
- For this activity you’ll need to craft and print out a worksheet for your students. One side of the worksheet should have a blank world map, and the other side should have a scavenger hunt list of things your students will be searching for in the video; be sure to also include some things that aren’t in the video.
- First, have your students draw a star where they think Thailand is on the blank map.
- Next, have your students turn over their worksheet to the scavenger hunt list. Play the video and tell them to find items on the list, checking them off as they do.
- After the video, ask your students about the items they checked off and discuss the specific things they saw.
- Play the video again and have them search for the things they still need to find.
Scavenger hunt items you can include in the worksheet for this video include:
There’s certainly plenty of vocabulary building in this example activity. Other ESL skills explored in this lesson could include discussion, writing and reading.
For a more streamlined way of finding, assigning and using videos for your class, check out FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news, travel videos and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
3. BrainPOP Geography
BrainPOP Geography is another resource sure to get your students’ minds traveling. This site encompasses nearly every basic aspect of geography learning, with a variety of categories to choose from. Videos, quizzes, maps, gaming and fact-filled activities are all ready to be explored.
A few ESL geography sections you and your students can check out are:
- Mount Everest
- The North Pole
- The South Pole
- The Silk Road
- Continents of the World
- Map Skills
- General Geography Themes
Choosing just one section is challenging when it comes to this excellent resource. One strategy is to have your class choose and be ready with a previously-prepared lesson plan. However, this can increase your preparation time.
To make it easier for you, here’s a sample BrainPOP Geography activity you can use:
For this sample activity you and your class will be exploring the American Gold Rush. This historical time period offers plenty of learning moments.
- First, explore a few fresh vocabulary words you can use to reinforce the lesson later on. Gold rush, California, panning, river, horse and mining are all great starters.
- Next, watch the video with your class. It’s very short and you’ll have plenty of time to watch it again and again to really hone in on comprehension.
- Once your students have discussed the video and the American Gold Rush period, let them write and read their own gold rush story using the provided example vocabulary words.
The ESL skills your students will employ for this ESL geography activity include listening, communication, vocabulary building, writing, grammar and reading. There are also quizzes and preset activities available for each video, but it’s certainly fun to create your own too.
Bring the continents and culture of all the corners of the world to your classroom with Lonely Planet. Sure, the name “Lonely Planet” might make you recall a guidebook you used during a summer of teaching abroad, but it’s also a valuable ESL geography resource.The Destinations section found on the Lonely Planet website allows the savvy ESL teacher to craft a lesson plan encompassing the culture and beauty of a country, city or unique place in the world. Students can journey around the world at home as well, watching videos and listening to different accents of English. Each destination offers maps, videos, articles, a survival guide and much more.
Uncover the secrets of Greece with your students using this sample activity:
- Let Lonely Planet transport your class to Greece. You’ll combine a video and an article for this particular activity.
- First, watch the video about Greece with your class.
- Next, have them read the article about Greece. Here you can note a few keywords used in the article. Depending on your students’ English level, you can gauge the difficulty of the vocabulary.
- After identifying new vocabulary and finishing the reading, watch the video again.
- Now it’s time for your students to use English to offer their opinions on Greece. Have them write and explain why they would like to go to Greece, and what they would like to see while there.
- Once they’re ready, have them share their thoughts by reading in front of the class. Allow students to ask and answer questions after each reading to build discussion around the topic.
Your students will use plenty of English skills during this activity, building their confidence to speak English in front of others. This activity will foster listening, writing, reading, vocabulary building, grammar and discussion.
5. Pinterest Travel Images
Normally you would want your students to stay off of social media sites like Pinterest during class. However, for this activity you should encourage it, since Pinterest Travel Images can land your students in different parts of the world.
The old saying, “A picture speaks a thousand words,” is certainly true here. Pinterest Travel Images can spark the creative thoughts that many textbooks simply cannot. There are plenty of teaching moments available when using these images.
Let your students create their very own vacation using this sample geography activity:
- If you have internet where you’re teaching, let students choose their own images from Pinterest. If not, select and print a few images and let your students choose them that way.
- When a student chooses an image like this one, ask them where they think the image was taken. This sparks the power of creativity.
- This particular image is of Venice, Italy. If they guess correctly, ask them how they knew. Once all students have guessed and know their destination of choice, empower them to travel, at least in their minds.
- Using only the image for reference, have them construct a story about their time in Venice, Italy.
They’ll need to stand up and tell their story without writing anything down. This will give them the confidence to think quickly in English and to describe things in new ways, in a new language.
6. Global Trek
Global Trek is the last, but certainly not least, site on this list of online ESL geography resources. This site from Scholastic publishing house allows you and your students to pick your departure city and destination in a fun and real-life way. It’s as if you’re making real travel plans to explore new parts of the world!
Use the Global Trek website to choose a country for your travel destination. Once you “arrive,” there are a few options you and your class can choose from. You can explore the country, meet the people or journey through a few specific regions and ecosystems of that country.
Book your tickets to Brazil with this sample activity:
Brazil is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and now you and your class can learn about Brazilian culture from the comfort of the classroom.
Once you and your class “arrive” in Brazil, choose the “Meet the People: People in Brazil” link. There you’ll find fun facts about Brazilian culture related to language, holidays, sports and food and drink.
It could be useful to print out this section for your students. You should begin by reading the introduction as they follow along. Then pick topics from the content for your students to read.
Answer questions as needed throughout the reading. Once everyone has had a chance to read a short passage, it’s time for discussion.
Spark discussion using these questions about the people and culture of Brazil:
- What is the biggest holiday festival in Brazil?
- What language do they speak in Brazil?
- Which sport do Brazilians play and watch the most?
- What is the national dish of Brazil?
- What popular fruits can be found in Brazil?
You may find it worthwhile to pair the above sample activity about Brazil with a video of Carnival, the biggest festival in Brazil. ESL skills used in this activity include reading, listening and quick thinking.
Using online resources to map out your ESL geography lessons will surely be a hit with your students. They’ll get a much-deserved break from the textbook and learn about the world in new and exciting ways.
Learning about different cultures in English also develops a well-rounded class atmosphere that emphasizes the importance of language diversity.
So let your students explore the world!
Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With nearly a decade of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.
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