Teaching Map Skills in the Primary Classroom

"Who needs map skills? It's the 21st century. We have GPS!" Chances are you've heard this, or something like it since the smartphone has become a common accessory in our society.  But, teaching map skills in the primary classroom is more than just learning how to read a map or give directions.  Map skills help our students develop spatial reasoning skills that are needed for more than just maps.  Spatial reasoning is how our brains connect math to the real world.  It's how we imagine and visualize objects in our mind and it plays a part in helping us make the abstract concrete.  I'm excited to share these tips and ideas for teaching map skills in the primary classroom.

Teaching map skills in the primary classroom can be fun and easy with these helpful tips and tricks.

Engage with a Book

Use books like this at the beginning of your map skills unit to get your students excited about starting their learning.
Starting a unit or lesson with a read-aloud is an excellent way of engaging students in a new topic.  

There are many wonderful picture books that you can use when teaching maps in your primary classroom.  Here are some of my favorites:
Read one or read them all.  Your students will really love these books as a starting place for kicking off your map unit.

Explore Maps

Give students opportunities to explore maps.  In this day, there is a real likelihood that some of your students have never seen or held a paper map.  

Print off maps or use map coloring pages like these to give your students an opportunity to explore different maps.
Print some of the internet, dig out the old travel map, grab the local theme park map, or ask family and friends for old maps they are no longer using.  

Just find some maps of all sizes and locations and get them in the hands of your students so they can explore.  Pair the maps with a magnifying glass and you've got a fun and interactive experience!

Keep these maps handy throughout your map skills unit.  As you teach about maps and map elements, have students see if they can find them on the maps too!  

It's so much fun to watch them learn about a map key or the compass rose and then find it on a real-world map.  

Make Maps Fun!

Teaching map skills can be so much fun!  This Map Skills Unit has everything you need to fill your lesson plans with engaging map skills activities that will help your students master these important skills.

Lapbooks are always fun, but pair it with your exciting map skills unit and your kids will love recording the information they are learning.
Your students will love learning about maps with this emergent reader.  In this reader, students will be introduced to maps, their forms, the map key, the compass rose, and how maps help us.

Use the Map Skills lapbook to give students a special place to document their learning.  Inside this lapbook, students will complete a variety of activities related to maps.  When they are done, they will have a map book they are really proud of. 

Inside, students will add key vocabulary and important map parts.  They will also compare maps and globes, build their own map key, and create their own map.  

In addition to the lapbook, give students lots of practice with using and understanding different map features.  This unit includes several no-prep activities that will have your students using maps in a fun way.  

Asking students to create a 3D city map is a great way to increase their spacial awareness while learning map skills.
Students will learn about the compass rose and how to use it as a tool for identifying direction.  

They will also work on using cardinal directions. Students will also have multiple opportunities to work with a map key. There are many more no-prep printable activities to give your students practice with important map skills.

The map skills unit doesn't stop there!  One of my favorite activities every year is creating a 3D city map!  Students love designing their own cities.  They can use their creativity to design their town, or you can use it as a directed map building and following instructions activity by telling students where to place the buildings.

You can find all of these map activities in the Map Skills Unit on Teachers Pay Teachers.

More Map Fun!

Your map skills practice doesn't have to stop with your lessons.  The primary classroom is a wonderful place to incorporate play-based learning with maps.  Here are some fun and easy ideas for your classroom:

Use play based activities like these to continue practicing map skills throughout the school year.
  1. Add a city map rug with some cars, toy figurines, and a couple of students, and watch as they begin using their map knowledge and vocabulary in their play.
  2. Challenge students to create a map of the classroom, playground, or school.
  3. For homework, have students create a map of their bedroom or home.
  4. Add map puzzles to your centers.
  5. Let kids explore with an interactive globe.

Pin these Fun Map Skills Activities

Want to keep these great ideas to use later? Pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back when you are ready to prepare your map skills unit.

Teaching map skills in the primary classroom can be fun and easy with these helpful tips and tricks. Your students will love learning about spacial awareness using hands-on activities they will love. From creating their very own city map to completing map puzzles, these activities will make learning map skills in the primary classroom feel more like a game than learning. #mapskills #primarymapskills #mapskillsforprimarystudents

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