Atlas Map Activities & Games

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

The use of an atlas is essential to students and learning how to use it is similar to learning dictionary use. Here are some fun activities and games for your students.

Like a Dictionary

You don't want your students to feel intimidated when you present them with an atlas. Aim at student engagement by showing your class that using an atlas is not different from using a dictionary. Your students will feel reassured once they understand that atlases have an index, a table of contents, and each map comes with a guide to symbols for them to read.

You can begin with examples. For instance, you can tell your students that if they want to find a map of the United States, they can search under letter 'U' and the entry in the index will list the pages where they can find the US. Then, show your students the pages the index refers to when you search for the United States. Make sure to tell your students what they are seeing on these pages. Before you begin doing activities and games, ask your students questions like: 'What do you do if you want to find the pages with a map of Italy?' or 'What is the Table of Contents?'. Now, your students are ready to move to activities and games.

Activities and Games

You can do these activities with your students to get them using an atlas with their own hands. Let's begin with locating specific countries.

Page Numbers Activity

For this activity, give your students a sheet with a list of countries. Your students' task is to work individually to write down the page numbers where maps for each country are available in the atlas.

When your students finish writing down the page numbers, your students can work in pairs to compare the page numbers they have. Of course, this activity works as long as all your students work with the same version of the atlas.

To wrap up the knowledge about the information your students find, a final activity can be to discuss a few pages. For instance, say your students have 'page 35' for South Africa. Page 35 has a 'political map' of South Africa. Define what a political map is for students and ask them to read the names of the cities they see in this country.

Capitals of the World Game

For this game, your students need to be confident in finding political maps in an atlas, as these include the capitals of countries. Students can work in pairs. Each pair of students gets a sheet with a list of countries and their task is to find the respective capital on the political map of each country. This game is fun if your students only have a limited time to do the activity. For example, if they have to look for ten countries, then a total of 10 minutes is reasonable. When students finish, they can compare their answers. The student who finished all the capitals correctly first gets 100 points while the one who finished second gets 50 points. Then, they can go for a second round with a new list you provide.

Drawing a Map Game

This activity requires that your students know what a physical map is. Show them a few physical maps in an atlas while pointing out how different colors represent different things. For instance, green for forested areas, blue for water, and so on. Then, let your students choose a specific map of any country to draw. Give each student a blank sheet of paper and a pencil so they can begin drawing the map of the country they chose. Then, students can be given crayons or colored pencils to color the specific areas of the physical map as in the atlas. Students can then exhibit their maps or even create a mini atlas by putting together all their maps. The objective of this activity is to provide your students with a hands-on activity that would help them to understand the importance of color codes used in physical maps.

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