With this regions of Virginia post, I am starting a hands-on Virginia Studies series here on my blog. I am starting this series because of an experience I had in a parent, teacher conference a few years ago. I heard one of the other teachers on my team tell a parent that their child was failing Virginia Studies because “history is boring.” It took everything within me to keep quiet during that moment because I have always loved history and do not believe learning history has to be boring. So, if you are a teacher who is struggling to engage your students with Virginia Studies, I am here for you!
In this post, I’m sharing some of my favorite activities for teaching regions of Virginia. A few years ago, I had a student write me a letter. In the letter, he described that he always hated history until after completing the regions of Virginia activities I am about to share. I hope you get the same response from your students too!
5 Regions of Virginia Map
Mapmaking is one of the best ways to teach Virginia geography. Students can create maps of the five regions of Virginia using playdough or clay. They should use different colors for each region. They should also incorporate geographical features such as the rolling hills of the Piedmont region and the old, rounded mountains of the Blue Ridge Mountains region. After the dough dries, students can also add Virginia rivers and water features using a marker or blue glitter glue.
If you are thinking that buying playdough for your entire class is too expensive, you are right! One way I have solved this problem is by asking families to create playdough at home with inexpensive materials. At the beginning of my Virginia Regions unit, I send home a letter asking families to help. The letter also includes the instructions for how to make the playdough and the date the playdough is needed back at school. This is a fun activity for families to complete at home that also incorporates math skills such as measurement and fractions.
Virginia Geography Virtual Field Trip
When I was teaching in Title I schools, most of my students had few opportunities to venture outside of the city where they lived. This can make it difficult for students to truly visualize what different places and geographical features look like. Luckily, there are resources you can use to take students on a virtual tour of the regions of Virginia.
My students love the Virginia Trekkers videos. The Virginia Trekkers are short videos that take place at different sites throughout Virginia. What makes these videos even better is that they are all aligned with the Virginia Studies SOLs. When studying the regions of Virginia, I show my students videos that take place in each of the five regions. As students are watching, they take notes on the different geographical features they notice. At the end of the videos, students use their notes to have a discussion where they compare and contrast the different regions.
Google Earth provides another great option for touring the five regions of Virginia. Google Earth is a free download that works great across all digital platforms. In addition to visiting historical sites with Google Earth, students can also travel across the entire state of Virginia. I set up Google Earth so that students can see the terrain with an eye-level view. Then, we move across the state from east to west. By moving across the state using the eye-level view, students can see how Virginia’s terrain changes. For example, they can examine how the flat land of the Tidewater region grows into the rolling hills of the Piedmont region.
Virginia Geography Digital Passages
One of the easiest ways to get students more engaged in Virginia Studies is by ditching the textbook. Throughout my teaching career, I can’t recall a single student who got excited when I said to open a textbook. Instead of big, boring textbooks, I have opted for short, digital passages that teach students exactly what they need to know about regions of Virginia in kid-friendly language. After students have read a short passage, I use hands-on activities to reinforce what was read and provide additional information.
Regions of Virginia Marketing Campaign
Another way I have made Virginia Studies more interactive is by incorporating project-based learning into many of my units. For the regions of Virginia unit, I assign students to teams. Each team must create a marketing campaign that promotes tourism in Virginia. As part of their marketing campaign, each team must create a brochure and a 30 to 60-second video that highlights the five regions of Virginia.
Often, this project takes several days to complete. When students have finished, I allow each group to present a marketing pitch to the class. During their marketing pitches, each team shares what they created and explains why Virginia should adopt their marketing campaign. After each group has presented, students vote for which marketing campaign they think is the best.
Virginia Geography Task Cards
In addition to finding engaging ways to teach Virginia Studies, I think it is also important to find fun ways to review Virginia Studies. I use Virginia Studies task cards as part of almost all my units because they are easy to set up, students enjoy them, and there are lots of ways they can be used. There is another post on my blog all about the ways I use task cards. I have also created the following video with task card games and activities.
My Virginia Geography task cards include 28 task cards to help students review topics such as the regions of Virginia, bordering states, and water features.
Virginia Regions Escape Room
With my Virginia regions escape room, students are trapped in the classroom. The only way to escape is by completing six challenging activities. Activities include decoding maps and hidden messages, solving math problems, and matching terms to the correct descriptions. This escape room is a fun way to get students using critical thinking skills as they investigate Virginia Studies.
These are just a few of the engaging activities I use when teaching regions of Virginia. Many of these activities are easy to replicate in your classroom but, if you are short on planning time, I’ve got you covered! I have created the following regions of Virginia teaching resources:
- Virginia Regions Unit
- Virginia Regions Task Cards
- Virginia Regions Escape Room
- Virginia Studies Unit Bundle
I hope you enjoy teaching regions of Virginia and that your students enjoy completing these activities! If you are looking for more information created just for Virginia teachers, be sure to sign up for my exclusive Virginia teacher newsletter. Each month, I send out the latest news related to teaching in Virginia, resources aligned to the SOLs, and special training events just for Virginia teachers.