How I Teach Map Skills

 Have you ever worked with young students on map skills? Teaching children all about maps and how to use them is so much fun! I have found that children are eager to dive into this topic, especially when using a few specific teaching techniques! Today, I'll be sharing just how I teach map skills for high student engagement! 

Teaching map skills is a breeze with these engaging resources your students will love.

Why Teach Map Skills? 

If you teach in the primary classroom, teaching map skills will likely come up in your social studies lessons at some point or another. Aside from meeting school requirements though, I find that teaching map skills is such a rewarding activity to take part in. 

Teaching map skills is a great way to get your students engaged in learning about social studies.
When students learn about maps and how useful they are in our lives, they become excited and highly engaged. I think the discussion of maps makes children think of Pirates or Fairy Tales, adding a bit of magic and mystique to the topic! 

Teaching map skills is a great way to get children interested in social studies and foster a love of learning. 

In addition to learning map skills themselves, children can work on improving their comprehension of subject matter, growing their writing skills, and more through working on map skills! 

Introducing Maps & Map Skills  

To get started teaching this topic, I like to provide a thorough introduction to students on maps and using map skills. There are a number of ways to do this, but I love to use a short video as our first introduction. Kiddos are usually quick to perk up when watching this one as it illustrates how to use a map at an amusement park as the first example. This is a great starter to the lesson! 

Using read alouds and hands-on map exploration is another great way to introduce the topic and engage students in the new unit of study. 

Use this Let's Learn About Maps reader to start your map skills unit.
Once the children have a general idea of what maps are and how we use them, I love working on a mini reader together. The booklet I like to use teaches all of the essentials about different types of maps and what they are used for. This booklet also touches on key vocabulary words like compass rose, cardinal directions, and map key. 

I like to read through the book with my kiddos as a whole group and then have them color the pages. After that, I pair them into groups and have them work on reading the information among themselves. 

These mini books are kept at the students' desks as a valuable reference point throughout our unit on map skills. 

Practice Map Skills 

After the children have made their books, it's time to dive into some practice. I love no-prep printables for practicing our new skills. Worksheets are great because you can complete them together as a group, use them for centers, or small groups, or send them home for extra practice. 
Worksheets like these are a great way to introduce and get in lots of map skills practice.

The map skills worksheets I like to use cover key information about maps including:
  • Using a Compass Rose
  • Cardinal Directions
  • Locating Items on a Map
  • Directional Moving on a Map 
  • Using Map Keys 
  • Understanding Map Scale
  • Difference Between a Map & Globe

I find the best way to use these worksheets is through a mix of applications. When first starting out, it's great to work on these in small groups so that you can offer assistance and prompt students as needed. Once they get the hang of these ideas and concepts though, I love assigning these as independent work or center activities so that I can get a sense of how much my kiddos are understanding. 

Map Skills Writing Activities

I love blending social studies with writing activities. Incorporating writing activities is a great way to reinforce map skills with your students. Plus, since this is such a fun topic for students, they are usually pretty eager to write! 

I love using both graphic organizers and creative writing opportunities when diving into map skills with students. Graphic organizers offer a great introductory writing activity to help students brainstorm before they do their own creative writing. In my classroom, I have kiddos make graphic organizers that touch on the following: 

    Graphic organizers like these are a great way to get your students to not only practice map skills but also get in some writing practice as well.
  • Describing Maps
  • Facts About Maps 
  • Maps Are/Have/Can 

Using these prior to assigning a creative writing activity will lay the foundation and get those gears turning! Then students can write their own paragraph or story about maps. I like to let students get creative with this activity but sometimes I will offer prompts to get them started like:

  • All About Maps 
  • How to Use A Map 
  • Ways Maps Are Helpful  

Writing activities are such a great way to get a peek into what parts of a lesson were most memorable to your students. I love reading through these after kiddos have finished and displaying them on a bulletin board. 

Bring Map Skills To Life with 3D Towns 

The next activity is to help students grasp how much information a map can hold by having them design a 3D town. This is always a favorite in my room! I love saving this for the afternoon as a special activity to celebrate a long day of learning!

When students create a 3D town like this they are able to show off their knowledge of map skills with a fun and engaging hands on activity they will love.
For this activity, students will color various pieces of a town including trees and structures, and arrange them on their own road pattern. The pieces are designed to fold upwards, creating a 3D effect on their paper. I encourage my students to be creative with their designs and include anything that appeals to them. 

If they have the time they can also draw people, animals, and cars. These are so fun to look at once everyone is finished! 

I like to have kiddos walk around the room and admire each of their classmates' handiwork before we pack up and head home for the day. This is a great activity to follow a day of hard work learning map skills! 

Review What You Have Learned with Map Skills Lapbooks

Finally, we work on making lapbooks- which my students absolutely LOVE! If you aren't familiar, lapbooks are a smaller version of an interactive notebook. Inside the lapbook, you can include all kinds of valuable information on any topic you choose. 

The lapbooks we make use of a large piece of construction paper folded to open on each side. Inside the lapbooks, students will color, cut, and paste various interactive pieces. Lapbooks are great because they provide a quick overview of all the essential information we covered on a topic. This is a wonderful way to review what you have learned. Our lapbooks provide information on:
A lapbook like this is a great way for students to show off what they have learned during the map skills unit.

  • Key Vocabulary 
  • Compass Rose 
  • Differences/Similarities between Globes and Maps
  • Using a Map Key 
  • Designing Your Own Map (of a bedroom, classroom, neighborhood, etc.)

Lapbooks are such a great way to review all of the map skills that were covered in your unit, while also allowing kiddos to make a fun keepsake! Parents love to see these and hear all about what their child is learning. Closing with this activity is the perfect way to end this lesson! 

Interested In Teaching Map Skills In Your Classroom? 

Are you ready to give teaching all about maps a try in your classroom? It really is such a fun topic to cover and I love the level of student engagement these lessons always seem to produce. I think having an interesting topic like map skills and then using a variety of activities to teach that topic really make this unit fun for the students!

If you're interested in any of the activities I used in my classroom to teach this topic, be sure to check out my Map Skills Unit which includes everything discussed in this post! This unit is great for 1st and 2nd grade students and will offer a foolproof way to teach map skills in your classroom! 

This map skills unit includes everything you need to help your students learn all about map skills.

Save This Post 

Don't forget to save this post on Pinterest for when you're ready to dive into teaching map skills to your students! 

Teaching map skills to elementary students is a breeze with these fun and engaging activities. From worksheets to graphic organizers to building a 3D model of a town, your students are sure to quickly learn and understand all the map skills you want to focus on. Use these helpful tips to get your students excited to learn and practice their map skills this year. #mapskills #teachingmapskills #mapskillsforkids

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