Big Ideas and Regions

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,     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.

Big Ideas and World Regions handout

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.

Showme – Reading a Fireworks 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.”