Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.
Check the Map
The following reading map activities will work best as a supplement to a larger lesson on map reading. Most of these activities require paper maps. However, if you permit your students to use cellphones or other electronic devices in class, feel free to adapt the map activities for these devices.
Mapping the Future
In this activity, students will practice reading a map that has just been created.
- Instruct students to draw maps of what they believe their neighborhood, city, or country will look like in 50 years. The maps should be detailed and include borders, place names, and geographical features.
- When the maps are complete, have students randomly exchange maps.
- Have each student stand up and read the map he or she was just given. As part of this reading, students should describe key details and features of the map. During this process, the author of the map can correct and comment on the map reading his or her classmate is providing.
A Legend is Born
This activity will help students practice how to read a map by designing a legend and can be done either individually or in pairs.
- Hand out a map to each student or pair of students, but make sure the map does not include a legend.
- Give the students some time to review the map and create a legend. The legend should include a variety of symbols for roads, junctions, geographical features, and other items typically included on a map.
- You can also encourage students to draw new features onto the map as necessary.
To conclude the activity, ask students to explain their legends and have a discussion about the similarities and differences among the legends they created.
In this activity, students will practice reading a map in a way that can be easily understood by another person.
- Pair students and arrange the desks so that the pairs can sit back-to-back.
- Give one student in the pair a map and the other student a blank sheet of paper.
- The student with map should describe it to the second student, who should draw the map based on the description she or he is hearing.
- When time is up, have the pairs compare the original map to the one drawn based on the description.
- Finally, have a class discussion about how diverse readings of the map created different and/or similar outcomes.
You can vary this activity by describing a map yourself and having all the students make a map drawing based on your description.
Map the Journey
This activity requires several copies of the same map. Before you begin, you'll need to prepare several questions students can answer based on the map. For instance, if you're using a road map of the United States, your questions could include:
- How many miles from Nashville to Houston?
- If you were driving north through Colorado, which interstate would you use?
- How many states are between California and Utah?
- Approximately how many miles across is North Dakota?
Be sure to create questions that require students to read the map using both the legend and the map's other features.
- Divide the class into small teams and give each team a map.
- Ask the map questions you've prepared and have each team record their answers.
- Collect and mark the answers and award a prize to the winning team.
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