National Council for Geographic Education

Top Ten Ideas for Teaching APHG to Ninth graders

Top Ten Ideas for Teaching Urban Geography to Ninth graders
Sharon Shelerud

The last unit I teach is the Urban Unit, because we have previously covered many of the concepts, and the new ones are easy for students to comprehend. Many of my students are beginning to focus on preparation for the looming AP Exam, so the easier I can make it while still covering content is a win-win for all of us.

This month I am going to share with you the top ten activities, resources and review ideas I use during the Urban Unit. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Require students to draw and label the three North American urban models. Make sure they know both names for each model. For example, teach both Burgess and Concentric Ring/Zone terms for that model. Students are expected to know both names, as on the exam only may be used.

2. Using road maps (Triple A (AAA) will provide them if you are a member) and Google Earth maps to have students investigate if these models are helpful to understand today's cities. This is a fun one-day activity, where students practice reading and analyzing a road maps. If they feel the models are helpful, have students explain why/how. The same if they don't feel they are helpful.

3. Require students to draw and label world city models, such as: Latin American Model, Southeast Asia Model, African Model, Western European Model and the Islamic Model. Have students use past learning to explain what influenced the urban layout depicted by each model. This is a great exercise where students review key concepts from the population, culture, and political units.

4. Just like it was important for students to know past and current industrial regions. It is important for them to know past and current most populated cities. I have each student map the ten most populated cities for three different years during different centuries. They are then asked to explain why the cities were located where they were for each year, and what forces caused these cities to remain or be removed in the next year(s). In groups of three, students discuss the patterns they see over nine year periods. I end the exercise by having the triads predict where the ten most populated cities will be in fifty years and provide an explanation based on geographic perspective and concepts.

5. Two great TED-Talks videos for the Urban Unit are: "Shadow Cities" and "Manufactured Landscapes." When you go to, navigate to talks and type in the titles. "Shadow Cities" is great for looking at shantytowns and "Manufactured Landscapes" at how urban growth can change the landscape.

6. The video "Outsourcing" from the show 30 Days is a good one to show outsourcing and the cultural changes on the urban landscape in India.

7. I provide a brief history lesson when teaching about the rise of the suburbs. I teach in a suburban school, and most students have no idea why or how their suburb developed. This history lesson again pulls in the concepts of migration, population growth, infrastructure and changes to the cultural landscape.

8. Students should learn about new urbanism and be able to compare it to suburbs. It is important for students to look at the forces that encouraged both ideas and to discuss how each can be used to develop future urban areas.

9. Review Central Place Theory and make sure student how it applies to urban geography.

10. You must teach the concepts of World Cities, Rank - Size Rule and Primate Cities. Make sure students are very clear about what each is, why significant to geography and how each can be used to understand a place.

As you cover your last unit prior to the exam, be sure to include past learning into as many lessons as possible. This helps students begin reviewing and builds confidence prior to the exam.

Please send any comments or questions to Sharon at As always, I hope you will find these ideas helpful. April I will cover preparing for the May 17th AP Exam.