"Continents Game "

AUTHOR: Chuck Condry; Mt. Burney, CA

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT: 4-6, (easily adaptable to 3rd grade). Social Studies: others with adaption

OVERVIEW: It is difficult for young people to compare the earth's continents in terms of area, population, population densities, annual growth, and other geographic terms.

PURPOSE: To provide students with the skills to compare the Earth's continents in a variety of ways.

OBJECTIVE(s): The students will correctly order the continents in terms of area, population, and other geographic terms.

RESOURCES/MATERIALS: index cards, envelopes, encyclopedias and other reference materials as needed.

ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES: Review with the students the continents. As they name them, write them on the board in alphabetical order.

Ask the students to identify the rule that you used to order the continents on the board. Ask the students if there are other ways that the continents might be ordered. List some of the possibilities on the board (these can be used to extend the lesson later).

Tell the students that they will be using area to list the continents in order, from least to greatest. Pass out paper (or ready made sheets, if appropriate) and ask the students to predict the area order of the continents, from the smallest (least land area) to the largest (greatest land area).

Then ask for seven volunteers to come to the front of the class. Give each of these seven an envelope with a continent and an ordering rule (land area) on the front. Tell them not to open the envelopes yet. (In each envelope is an index card with information about the continent. A sample set of data from Grolier's New Electronic Encyclopedia, 1990 edition, is included below).

Ask them to arrange themselves in order from the continent with the least land area to the continent with the greatest land area. After they have finished, write the predicted order on the board.

Next ask the students to open their envelopes and rearrange themselves in the actual order (this is good practice in reading/understanding numbers to the millions period).

Provide time for the students to discuss the outcome.

How many got them all correct? Were there any surprises? How did the group work to decide the predicted order? Was it effective?

Continue the activity with envelopes for population, population density, annual growth, etc. After each new ordering rule is used, ask the students to compare the lists.

Ask the students to draw conclusions from the lists. Ask them how they could verify their conclusions.

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES: Provide a set of envelopes for each seven children, and each group writes their predictions on the board. Have students work in pairs or triads to develop an ordering rule and collect the data.

Use their rule with the whole class. Hint: often these facts can be found in a "fact box" in an encyclopedia article.

Students might create a data base if a computer is available. Data could be collected by country and manipulated to provide continental estimates of various natural resources, arable land, GNP, per capita income, literacy, religion, etc.

Ask the students compute the percentage of each item that each continent has (22% of the land area, 35% of the population, etc.).

Ask the students to research to see if conclusions drawn earlier can be verified.

Ask the students to predict how various rankings will change in 100 years. Why? What are other factors that might keep this from happening?


This activity is an awareness lesson to familiarize the students with basic geographic and demographic information. It could be used in conjunction with a study of natural resources and conservation, population and urbanization studies, or other social science topics.

Data for the continent cards (Grolier's NEE, 1990):

CAUTION: this particular data was collected by students - it has not been verified by an adult.

Land area:

Africa: 30,330,000 sq km (11,710,500 sq mi)
Antarctica: 14,250,000 sq km (630,000 sq mi)
Asia: 44,444,100 sq km (17,159,995 sq mi)
Australia: 7,682,300 sq km (2,966,151 sq mi)
Europe: 10,531,623 sq km (4,066,281 sq mi)
North America: 24,249,000 sq km (9,363,000 sq mi)
South America: 17,804,526 sq km (6,874,600 sq mi)


Africa: 601,000,000 (1987 est.)
Antarctica: several thousand in summer, only a few in winter
Asia: 2,777,274,500 (1984 est.)
Australia: 16,500,000 (1988 est.)
Europe: 683,000,000 (1980 est.)
North America: 410,750,000 (1987 est.)
South America: 286,000,000 (1988 est.)

Population Density:

Africa: 51.0 per sq km
Antarctica: less than one per sq km
Asia: 62.0 per sq km
Australia: 2.1 per sq km
Europe: 65.0 per sq km
North America: 18.6 per sq km
South America: 16.0 per sq km

Annual Growth:

Africa: 2.8%
Antarctica: 0.0%
Asia: 1.7%
Australia: 0.8%
Europe: 0.4%
North America: 0.7%
South America: 2.1%


Thanks, Chuck, for such a great lesson plan.

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Thanks for the assistance and thanks for the great work!

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