Geography Vocabulary Activities for High School

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Rote memorization is difficult and boring. This lesson offers fun games and activities to get your students fully engaged in the process of learning geography vocabulary terms.

Engaging in Vocabulary

Engaging students in fun, interactive activities to practice and deepen their understanding of important terms and concepts is a far better method than expecting them to use simple memorization.

These activities can be played with any set of terms from high school Geography. However, if you are reviewing a large, varied set of terms, it is recommended you do so in categories. For example, the category 'land' could include vocabulary words like continent, continental drift, fjord, fault and mesa. A 'water' category could feature terms like aquifer, permafrost, atoll and estuary. Finally, a 'maps' category could include vocabulary words like contour, cartography, latitude, longitude and scale. Weather, space and cultural geographic terms are a few more categories you can use.

Physically Active Games

You will need plenty of space to allow students room to move.

Crossing Over


  • You will need four sets of notecards with vocabulary terms printed on them.


  • In a wide open space, spread the cards out with the words facing up to form a sort of playing board.


  • Divide your class into four teams.
  • Instruct all students to stand on one side of the cards.
  • Tell your students that they must get their entire team across the cards by following these rules:
    • Only one team member can move at a time.
    • When a definition is called out, one person from each team finds the term being defined and jumps to that word.
    • If correct, the student picks up the card. If the student does not land on the correct word, he or she must return to the beginning edge of the playing board.
    • When a new definition is called out, teams can either have the previous member continue across or send another member onto the board; only one team member can move at a time.
  • Keep track of term definitions called out so that you can check the winning team's answers.

Monster Memory


  • You will need one set of notecards with vocabulary terms printed on them.


  • In an open area, lay the cards face down in a grid pattern. Allow students to see the vocabulary terms and their positions before doing so.


  • Divide the class into four teams.
  • Place each team on a different side of the grid.
  • Tell students that they will need to focus on memorizing the location of terms in the grid.
  • Call out a definition.
  • Each team can send one member onto the grid to turn over one card:
    • If the term on the card matches the definition, the member returns to his/her side with the card.
    • If it is not the correct term, he or she must call out the term and replace it face down in the same position in the grid.
  • Call out another definition.
  • Each team must send a different member onto the grid to repeat the process. (Note: the first person to a card position gets to claim the card.)
  • Continue to call out definitions with teams alternating active members until all the terms have been claimed. The team with the most claimed terms wins.


No materials or preparation needed.


  • Divide the class into groups of 5 or 6.
  • Instruct groups to sit so they face each other in a large circle.
  • Call out a definition.
  • If a student thinks he or she knows the term related to that definition, he or she must stand. The first student to stand is allowed to attempt to answer in the form of a question ('What is an aquifer?').
  • Groups get one point for every right answer and lose a point for every wrong answer.
  • At the end of the game, offer a written bonus question in which each group can work together to explain the meaning of a particularly complicated term or concept. Remember to have groups indicate a wager of points to earn if their answer is correct.

Small Group Tasks

These activities can be accomplished in small groups with few materials.

Sing It

No materials or preparation needed.

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