Atlas Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

In this lesson plan, students will learn about atlases. After examining an informational text and answering questions about atlases, students will work in groups to create Jeopardy atlas games.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, students will be able to:

  • Understand how to read an atlas
  • Ask and answer questions about atlases


45-60 minutes

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.1

Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.2

Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


  • Multiple copies of Reading an Atlas, one per student
  • Multiple copies of the quiz
  • Index cards
  • Glue sticks
  • Markers
  • 4-5 trifold boards
  • Envelopes
  • Atlases, one per student

Lesson Instructions

  • Hold up an atlas for the class. Flip through the pages. Ask the students to hold up the number of fingers that best represents their prior knowledge with atlases (1= they have never heard of an atlas, 5= they know everything there is to know about atlases). Tell students that regardless of their number, they will know more about atlases at the end of today's lesson.
  • Distribute copies of Reading an Atlas to the students.
  • Read the 'What is an Atlas?' and 'What Can an Atlas Show Us?' sections aloud to the students as they follow along. Ask:
    • Where can you find an atlas?
    • How is an atlas different than a map?
    • What question might you have that could be answered by an atlas?
  • Read the 'Reading an Atlas' aloud to the students as they follow along. Ask:
    • What is the purpose of the map key?
    • Why does an atlas have a table of contents?
  • Read the remainder of the text aloud to the students as they follow along. Ask:
    • What is a road atlas?
    • What is a thematic atlas?
  • Ask if there are any questions then distribute the quiz to students. Students will take quiz independently. Review answers as a class.
  • Ask students to hold up the number of fingers that best represents their prior knowledge with atlases again. Discuss as a class.

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