Although the State of New Hampshire does not require any specific knowledge of basic, what-goes-where mapping skills from my 7th and 8th graders, I devote one day a week to it, because I can't, in good conscience send my guys off to high school, not knowing where France is. On a given day, one week, the class and I will go over a part of the world, filling out blank maps together, then one week later, the students will take a quiz on that particular part of the world.

Generally, these quizzes will take the form of blank maps, with regions, countries, etc... labeled with numbers. I have students number blank paper with those numbers, then identify the items from the map.

[Yes, this is very basic, rote learning, but I feel that there is a place for rote learning in a well-rounded education. Sometimes, students need to have a basic body of knowledge to build on for more sophisticated concepts. The steps of a bill becoming a law, for instance. Or their times-tables.]

Anyway, every once in a while, I give a slightly different type of quiz to my students. Earlier this year, I gave a quiz with written-out questions, rather than a blank map. For whatever reason, this really threw my students for a loop. They did TERRIBLY on material I was pretty sure they knew reasonably well. It was clearly the format that was messing them up.

It struck me that reading about countries, geographic features, etc.. in context was pretty challenging to these guys, so I decided to give them more of this sort of quiz, to help them develop those skills. Because - and let's be frank here - how many times in life is somebody going to walk up to them on the street and ask them to identify Wyoming on a blank map?

A couple of the questions I had asked on the "word-problem" quiz had been linked together into a little story. A couple of usually-not-terribly-engaged students mentioned that they liked that narrative, so for the next quiz, I wrote a story about a giant donut monster eating Burlington, Vermont. That went over pretty well (and the grades were a little higher than on the previous quiz), so, a month or so later, I gave them a quiz about Europe being invaded by Radioactive Space Hamsters.

This also went over pretty well (with another small improvement in grades), but there was a little bit of complaining about the dorkiness of my themes. I told my guys not to be too critical, or the next time there would be sparkly vampires. This was greeted with so much horror that I felt obligated to write the following quiz.

(See how you do on it.)

8th Grade Social Studies

Mapping Quiz

Even More Europe

While backpacking in Europe, a young, sparkly vampire named Rosco meets a beautiful girl werewolf named Fifi. They meet while they are hiking in the mountains, traveling from the Black Sea to the Adriatic Sea.

1.   What is the name of the mountain chain where they meet?

Rosco and Fifi end up spending a delightful vacation together in the country that borders on the Adriatic. Its land is mostly mountainous and its chief export is chrome. (Plus, there are a lot of villagers to eat.)

2.   What is the name of the country where Fifi and Rosco spend their vacation?


Fifi and Rosco hit it off and decide to get married. Rosco wants to have the ceremony in Belarus, but Fifi refuses. It sounds too much like “Bella” and girls who date vampires really HATE that girl!

In the end, they agree to have their wedding ceremony in this country instead.

3.   What country is it?

There are some problems getting all the guests to the ceremony. It’s a full moon and Fifi’s parents end up having to fly to Europe in crates in the luggage compartment of a plane. By the time they land, they are REALLY grumpy and refuse to pay for the wedding.

Fortunately, Rosco’s parents are LOADED and can pay for everything - if they can ever get to the wedding. They’ve been traveling in Eastern Russia and have some trouble getting over the mountains to where the ceremony is.

4.   What is the mountain range in Russia called that they have to get across?

Eventually, the wedding goes forward and things go pretty well, though Rosco’s best man (a zombie) keeps hitting on Fifi’s sister. (He says that he loves her for her brain.)


“Mind”. Not “brain”.


Rosco and Fifi go on their honeymoon to this tiny, little country between Belgium and France.

5.   What is this country called?

The honeymoon is full of surprises. One of the biggest surprises is that Fifi IMMEDIATELY swells up and has a litter of sparkly puppies.

Rosco and Fifi know that it’s really cool to name your children after of a place – like “China” or “Brooklyn”. They decide to name their four puppy children after the four countries in the United Kingdom.

6-9.   What are they?

Rosco and Fifi want to send their children to a private school in Switzerland, but they can’t afford it. They do, however, find a good kennel in Romania.

10.   Please put an X on Romania.


1.   Balkan Mountains
2.   Albania
3.   Latvia
4.   Ural Mountains

5.   Luxembourg
6-9.   England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland
10.   The one that looks like a fish, kissing the Black Sea

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