The Michigan Geographic Alliance has been working since 2011 to develop a set of simple, one-page diagrams that describe learning progressions for a short list of “Big Ideas” in geography. These Big Ideas are important principles that students can use to organize their knowledge of major world regions.
The Big Idea “scaffold diagrams” have proved useful in guiding the selection of readings and the development of activities for students in different grades. They are also useful for teachers trying to diagnose whether students have the knowledge and skills they should have learned in earlier grades.
(Please keep in mind that these are working drafts. Comments are welcome – send them to
firstname.lastname@example.org, and check back in a few months to see the new versions!)
Here is a basic handout with a map of Big Ideas and a brief description of other components.
Click here to jump to the Big Idea Geography folder,
which has text chapters, presentations, and clickable maps
to support a wide variety of inquiry activities about the Big Ideas.
Here is a presentation that shows how to interpret a scaffold diagram.
Click on the links below to view the Big Idea scaffold diagram for each major world region.
NOTE: These are set up for easy printing. To view on-screen,
right-click on the diagram and click “rotate clockwise.”
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 2 – Regions in North America
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 3 – Distance in Australia
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 4 – Elevation in S America
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 5 – Latitude in Africa
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 6 – Area in Russia
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 7 – Resources in SW Asia
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 8 – Population in China
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 9 – Complexity in Europe
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 10 – Culture in South Asia
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 11 – Legacies in the US
- Spatial Reasoning Scaffold 12 – Systems in the Oceans
- World big ideas map and notes