Teaching students mapping skills is an essential component of most State Standards, but making it practical can be a challenge. Knowing east from west and directional skills is important, but if students can’t apply it to reading maps and navigating around an area, have they really learned the skills? Probably not. Thankfully, two really good teachers from the West Coast have mapped out some great lesson plans that will make teaching the skills easier and a lot more practical.
How to Teach Mapping Skills
All-Season Treasure Hunt
The 4th and 5th Grade students in Rosa’s Arroyo Grande, CA classroom get hands-on mapping skill lessons through a creative treasure hunt activity around their school. “In the fall, and again in the spring, my students and I participate in different types of Treasure Hunts,” Rosa explains. “Sometimes, I provide students with copies of our school map prepared with a grid overlay. I then help students plot points to where they will find tiny “treasures” in the form of stickers and other treats.
Other times, I offer clues to help students identify the next place on campus we will be visiting. When we arrive there, students unearth tiny treasures as well. The children and I look forward to these ‘treasured times’.”
Mapping The Way to Directional Skills
“Part of my first grade curriculum includes teaching directional words: above, under, behind, next to, left of, right of, near, far, etc. I have discovered a fun and meaningful way to review these words while practicing map skills,” says Lisa from SeaTac, Washington. “During trips to family attractions such as theme parks, children’s museums, and petting zoos, I collect multiple copies of the complimentary maps they have available at each location. I mount the maps onto card stock, laminate them, then sort them into sets of matching maps. I divide my class into five groups and give each group a set of matching maps plus, five same-color erasable markers.”
“I then give oral directions involving directionality vocabulary concepts for the children to follow, such as, ‘If you are holding a blue marker, please find the entrance to your park, then circle the first attraction to the left of the entrance’ or ‘Use your red marker to circle an attraction that is far away from the entrance,'” she explains. “I encourage group members to confer among themselves to develop their answers. This is a fun way to get my students working cooperatively as they expand reading and map skills. Students enjoy doing this activity on their own, or they use the maps to read during silent reading.”
Fun Tip: Ask the families to collect copies of such maps from their family trips. After inviting the student who provided the maps to tell or write a detailed account of his or her family adventure, add the maps to this activity.
How do you help students in your class relate to mapping skills? Do you have any favorite mapping activities or games?