5 Activities to Help Teach Students About Map Skills

Since your students have likely learned or are in the process of learning about their communities, it is time to think about the next skill. I don’t know about you, but I have always found teaching map skills so much fun! It is a great way to get interactive while students learn an important skill that will be applicable in their real life. This unit will easily tie to your previous communities instruction. So, today, I am going to talk about 5 activities that will help you teach map skills to your primary kiddos!

Gather Books for Students to Explore

Map skills can be tricky for students. Learn how to teach map skills with different activities, worksheets, videos, and books. You can teach them about map grids and other types of maps. Plus, you'll teach about directions and reading a map.

First, we have to gather some resources. I will always recommend having quality mentor texts that are on topic or theme. These mentor texts should be used as read alouds, in small groups, or as available resource books for your students to access. Students will connect more fully to content that they understand and have experience with. And, books are a great place to start!

These 5 books are perfect for your map skills lessons. They are engaging, easy to understand, and will have kiddos excited about maps! There is no need to buy loads of books on this topic. Just a few great books that can be used in a variety of ways, more than one time! Each of these are affiliate links to Amazon!

Teach Keys, Symbols, and Other Terminology

To start, your students will need to know about a map key and grid. It is essential to their understanding of how maps work, what to look for, and how to “read” them. BrainPop has an excellent video for this. It has a great example map and clear explanations of how to read the key. Additionally, you can have your students read about map grids and keys, responding to comprehension questions, and assessing their skills with a printable activity.

Link to Brainpop Jr. Video

Teach the Different Types of Maps

Next, you will want to provide some instruction on the different types of maps! Use an anchor chart to display the types of maps that you’d like your kiddos to learn about. Simply print a map of each type, label and describe them. This can be done as an interactive activity with your students!

I regularly recommend integrating your science and social studies content with reading because it is so efficient and effective. Your students can practice their reading and comprehension skills while learning about the different types of maps.

My suggestion would be to have your kiddos read about the different types of maps and then create an anchor chart, together. Making the chart building interactive can help solidify students’ understanding or correct misconceptions!

Guide Students Through Drawing a Town Map

Map skills can be tricky for students. Learn how to teach map skills with different activities, worksheets, videos, and books. You can teach them about map grids and other types of maps. Plus, you'll teach about directions and reading a map.

Another fun activity for teaching map skills is this large interactive build-a-map. As partners or small groups, students can create their own maps using anchor chart paper! This activity is completely customizable to your class and your students.

Complete a guided drawing to create the streets and map layout. This will ensure that all of your students are working within the same parameters. Then, your students can add elements that are specific to the type of map you’re wanting them to make. For example, if you’re working on a map of a town, they will want to include specific buildings (fire station, post office, houses, park, etc). Students can create those elements by cutting and gluing paper, or drawing/coloring. Make sure that labeling is a step of your instructions, as well.

After students have completed their maps, they can be used for map skills activities throughout the rest of the unit!

Have Students Present to Peers Using Vocabulary

Map skills can be tricky for students. Learn how to teach map skills with different activities, worksheets, videos, and books. You can teach them about map grids and other types of maps. Plus, you'll teach about directions and reading a map.

This last activity is an individual, printable version of the previous activity. Students can create their own map and present it to the class! Be sure to discuss important vocabulary, possibly with an anchor chart or listing the words on the board to prompt their presentation (North, South, East, West, map key, symbol, etc.).

As I mentioned with the larger map, these student-created maps can be used for other activities throughout the unit. You could host a gallery walk, where students visit each others’ maps on display, answering questions or prompts along the way. Students could present their maps to the class. Students could exchange maps with their own created list of prompts/questions for one another. (For example: Which direction is the Fire Station located from the park? Or How many streets are headed East-West? How would you get from the hospital to the library?).

Map skills can be so much fun! Enjoy using some of these activities to help your kiddos become expert map users!

Suggested Map Skills Resource You’ll Love

If you’re interested in any of the printable activities or passages that are seen in the post, check out this complete, no-prep Map Skills pack! There are a variety of activities to be used to teach your students all about maps! Both printable and digital versions come with this set, so you can teach with this resource anywhere! Click one of the buttons below to get a closer look.

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