I teach World and U.S. History to 7th and 8th graders. During the first couple of weeks of school, I hit them pretty hard on reviewing basic geography... for good reason.
It seems that every year, the students I receive - who were in 6th and 7th grade last school year - know less and less of what they should be expected to know by the time they reach these grade levels.
I mean seriously, how difficult is it to memorize the names and locations of 7 continents and 5 oceans? And yet, by and large, my students haven't. You can say that they are young yet, and shouldn't be expected to know this, and that is what I am there for... but you would be wrong. They should know this basic information by the time they have reached middle school - and don't get me wrong; many have learned it. But not nearly enough.
For example, last Friday, I put a two-part Bellwork question up on the whiteboard for the students to complete upon entering the classroom:
A. What are the three largest countries on earth in land size?
B. What are the three largest countries on earth in population?
I chose students randomly to see what their answers were; I did not choose volunteers with their hands raised. I only wish I had a dollar for every time a student answered with Africa, Asia, South America, and North America.
As you can see, they don't even know the difference between a country and a continent. I would even take a timeout and go over with them - multiple times - the names and locations of the continents and discuss the difference between a continent and a country, and when I asked for more answers to the Bellwork question, it was as if they hadn't listened to a word I said, as their guesses were again Africa and North America.
Kids used to just automatically know this stuff, but nowadays, it is almost as if ignorance is not only a sought condition, but an exalted one.
Remember, I am responsible for their state test scores!
By the way, the answer to A. is Russia, Canada, and the United States. The answer to B. is China, India, and the United States.