Africa is a large continent made up of 54 countries that belong to the African Union. Some regions vary from others in terms of climate, people and cultures. Teaching students about the countries of Africa can be a heavy task. By starting with some basic defining points that illustrate country similarities and contrasts, teachers can make a fun and engaging lesson plan. Art, games and music can be implemented into the lesson plans to make them fun and engaging for the students. You will also want to incorporate digital media into aspects of the lessons. This will provide a fun platform for students to engage with people from the countries they are studying.
More than 3,000 tribes span the African continent. Tribes distinguish themselves in part through their works of art, such as tribal masks. Their art also provides insight into their spiritual beliefs. The Ibo tribe of Nigeria uses thousands of masks that incarnate spirits of the dead by forming a massive network of souls. A fun lesson on tribal masks can be initiated by having your students create paper mache tribal masks. Assign one tribe to each student and have him research the background of the tribe and represent the findings on a decorative mask. A tribe's traditions, culture and spiritual beliefs can provide inspiration.
The colors and symbols on African flags represent a variety of things about the countries. The black, green, red and white flag of Kenya bearing its Masai shield represents the people and the land. The black stands for the people, the green symbolizes their national wealth, red stands for blood and white represents peace. The shield and spear portray their history of defending freedom. Assign each student a flag to re-create with felts, construction paper and other art tools. Then have the students present the flag to the class. After each pupil has given a presentation, break students into groups of four and use PowerPoint to devise your own version of the game show "Jeopardy." Give each group rotating turns to name a country's flag correctly.
Teaching geography doesn't have to be all about map memorization from books. Kids can learn their African geography through fun games. Apps for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets feature quizzes on African geography. Simply hook up a projector an iPad, for example, and display the app on a screen or wall. Then, have the children form a line and take turns answering the questions. Or you can buy a large map of Africa and cover up the names of the countries with strips of paper. Then tape the map to a cork or cardboard backing. Kids will have fun learning while you say the name of a country and challenge them to hit that country with a dart.
Native music consumes everyday activities in African countries. Some of the music has been passed down for hundreds of years through generations. Much African music consists of clapping, singing and dancing to music that is heavily laden with drums. Play CDs of various African drum music or play online music samples to your classroom, pointing out the different styles of drumming from one country to another. For a fun project, you can have your students make their own drums. They can be complex doumbeks, as showcased on Kinder Art's website, or they can be made from simple oatmeal boxes, colored paper and glue.
Jen Saunders is an entrepreneur and veteran journalist who covers a wide range of topics. She made the transition to writing after having spent 12 years in England where she studied and taught English literature.