Even as a History Major who loves modern Western European History, this is a difficult thing to keep up with. The four separate countries of The British Isles have been considered one sovereign country, and four separate countries throughout history, depending on recent wars and decisions made by the different governments. But this infographic does a good job of showing how they stand today, what to call them, and how they have stood throughout history.
The four separate parts of The British Isles are the main Island. They include England (the main one), Scotland (the Northern part of the main Island and the smaller islands North of it), and Wales (a small portion to the West of England). Ireland is a separate Island.
The United Kingdom includes the British Isles and about a quarter of Ireland. But just because they are a citizen of the United Kingdom, does not mean they are English.
The infographic also does a great job of showing how these have combined and separated over time. They were first all together briefly in the 1600s, then again in the 1800s and 1900s. Most of Ireland is currently separate, and in 2014 Scotland is going to consider becoming independent.
This is a great visual aide when studying the history of the United Kingdom. It shows the information in an easy to read and easy to understand way. There are more details as far as why the countries separated and why they came together.
Hold a discussion with your students as to the benefits of having separate countries and having one single country. Divide students into groups based on sides. and have them research information to support their side. For instance, if the groups believes that they should all be one country, why have them come together at different points in history.