This year for geography, we restarted going over the continents, looking more specifically at some countries. Before jumping into that, however, we took three weeks to do an "introduction" unit, introducing basic geographical terms.
The main text for our unit was Maps and Globes. Each day we read over portions of this book. This book was great for my younger children, as it is geared towards preschool through early elementary aged students. As this was a review for my older children, I wasn't as concerned about it being at their reading level.
In order to help the children understand the idea of an atlas versus a map, I used an orange. I drew a rough outline of the continents on the orange with a marker. I then peeled it and attempted to lie it flat... this demonstrated for them why continents look so far apart but are actually next to each with just an ocean in between, as well as why some countries look so elongated. We also labeled continents and oceans on a worksheet.
We also reviewed the compass directions. We completed a directions worksheet as well as completed numerous "treasure hunts." I did this by simply putting the treasure in a location, then giving them directions to get there, such a 7 steps North, 3 steps east, etc. We took this a step further and made a community map. I then wrote out direction and they had to use their map to figure out where I went (everything was measured by blocks). For the last day that week, I had my children tell me which direction to drive, attempting to get us to the park (using north, south, east and west), and then back home! On the way home they figured out our rearview mirror says what direction we were going, and used that to help them :)
Part of our time was also spent on the different water and landforms. I made a chart as well as a matching game. They had to match the water or landform to the name. We also went over the poles, equator, hemispheres, oceans and continents. There are some really catchy tunes for learning the continents and oceans that my children quickly memorized, including A3.
The last couple days were spent reading There's A Map On My Lap! and doing activities with it. The one day we made a "Where I Live in this World." This was a great way to help the children understand how tiny our town is in comparison to the rest of the world! We also made paper plate continent maps... where we took paper plates and glued the continents on in the right locations! I also had the children label the five oceans.
Overall, the introduction was a success. By telling my children which way is north, they can figure out the other directions. They can also identify the seven continents and five oceans, though many of them would probably sing their answer to you. We are still working on the actual location of the continents and oceans.