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Basic human geography

This unit is an introduction to basic human and physical geography, with a focus on topics that will prepare students specifically to study issues in immigration. It is assumed that students who study this unit will have had some exposure to geography and social studies in their first language; these lessons serve as review of basic concepts and an overlay of new second-language vocabulary.

Geography as a discipline is characterized by a spatial approach to description and problem solving, with a crucial emphasis on the notion of mapping, or representing data in graphical or other non-linguistic formats. In this unit, students will engage in activities that require them to "translate" personal and new content information expressed in Spanish to maps and diagrams, and vice versa, consolidating their language proficiency and building their understanding of how information is represented and presented. Specifically, the lessons lead students to answers to the following key questions:

  • What is our basic environment like: climate, geography, population?
  • What connections are there between our physical environment and the economic activity in a region?
  • How do urban and rural lifestyles differ?

By answering these questions, students will learn to describe a variety of contexts in which humans live, both physically (terrain, weather, etc.) and in terms of social organization and economic activity (urban versus rural settings). In each case, students are encouraged to personalize the information, either by expressing their own reality or by viewing another’s reality through a character’s perspective. This approach should make the new information more engaging for students at all levels.

The specific examples used in the activities are based on the U.S. state of Oregon, but maps and demographic information for other states are available on the Internet or in libraries. Teachers should be able to use these activies as templates for personalizing materials for their students' own context.

Summative Assessment

Students will (1) write a descriptive letter to the Spanish classmates in Oregon while on an imaginary trip to Mexico, and (2) prepare a presentation in Spanish on their state/region for a professional delegation of visitors from Mexico. In both activities, studentss synthesize the demographic, economic, and physical geographical features studied in the unit in detailed descriptions and comparisons between their state and Mexico. 

Activity 1 Which place is this? ¿Qué lugar es? Download Word version
Activity 2 Cloropleth maps Los mapas cloropleth Download Word version
Activity 3 What's our job? ¿En qué trabajamos? Download Word version
Activity 4 Who lives in this region? ¿Quién vive en esta región? Download Word version
Activity 5 What's the weather? ¿Qué tiempo hace? Download Word version
Activity 6 City and country La ciudad y el campo Download Word version
Activity 7 My family history La historia de mi familia Download Word version
Activity 8  A letter to a friend Una carta a un amigo Download Word version
Activity 9 Welcome to Oregon ¡Bienvenidos a Oregon ! Download Word version

Web and Literature Sources
Map resources
Migration basics
Country profiles
On-line dictionary
Demographic information
Atlas of Oregon, second edition, University of Oregon Press, 2001 (ISBN 0-87114-101-9)