Naming the World's Land Masses

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SWBAT understand that point of view impacts how the continents are labeled.

Big Idea

"Facts" are determined by who is stating them.


30 minutes

Pass out  three world maps.

"Students, to understand history, it is important to know where places are in relation to other places. One way to do this is to know the names of the continents and the oceans.  Another thing that is important to understand is that the number of continents vary depending on who you ask.  This sounds kind of confusing doesn't it?  In the United States, teachers usually have students learn that there are 7 continents.  But in Spanish speaking countries, teachers group North American and South America together labeled  "The Americas" and teach that there are 6 continents.  Geologists also recognize 6 continents, but they separate North and South American and combine Europe and Asia, labeled Eurasia.  So as you can see, the number of continents depends on your point of view.  Let's watch this short video that tells more about the continents.

Show video.

Have a short discussion about "facts" and point of view.  The important thing for students to understand is point of view influences "facts".   Today, we are going to name and label the continents using three of the most common ways land masses are named based on who is doing the naming. 

Guided Practice

30 minutes

Have students return to their seats with three world maps.  To support ELL students with academic language, have the names of the continents and oceans posted on chart paper large enough for them to see the correct spelling.

 Say, "Today, you will learn the names of the continents and oceans by labeling them on a world map.  Also it is important to remember that the continents are grouped differently depending on who is teaching the information.  Let's start with the traditional way the continents are labeled in the United States.  First, let's write a title for this map at the top of the page.  Write, "English Speaking, China and India teach 7 continents".   Now let's label the 7 continents:  I will point to a continent on my map and talk at your table and say the name of this continent.  Raise your hand if you want to share the name of the continent."

Call on a student to name the continent.  Demonstrate by writing the name of the continent- emphasizing to start each word with a capital letter because it is a proper noun- on the correct land mass.  To engage students, turn over the activity completely to the students.  Pick a student to point to a continent on the demo map (under the doc camera) and tell students to talk about the name of the continent, and then call on a student to say the name of the continent and come up to the map and write the name on the correct land mass.  Continue in this way until all 7 continents are labeled. Next, say, "Let's add in the names of the four large oceans on Earth.  They are: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, The Indian Ocean and the Arctic Ocean.  Talk at your table and decide where each ocean is and then add the labels to your map.  If you need to make sure your are right, send one person from your table over to the world map and check.

Check for understanding. Walk around the classroom and observe where  students have written the continents and oceans.


Independent Work

20 minutes

Maps 2:

"Students I am now going to give you the list of the continent labels used by Spanish speaking countries."  Show handout under document camera. 

Use a blank world map and first write the title at the top, Spanish Speaking and Western Europe name 6 Continents by combining the Americas.  Then label the continents how they are named in Spanish speaking countries. The important thing to notice is the land is not different- only its name and that their are 6 continents.  Label the 4 oceans.

Map 3:

Finally, title the third world map and label the continents by using the scientists list of 6 continents. You will combine Europe and Asia into one continent called Eurasia. Also label the oceans.  When you finish labeling the three maps, use colored pencils and shade in the continents.  Use a different color for each continent per map.  Here is an example of what each map will look like after it is colored.

6 continents- The Americas

6 continents- Eurasia