First, congratulations to all of the teachers and students who are now on summer break – myself included! My absence on the blog corresponds directly with the “end of the year craziness,” but now that I am on break I have more time to share ideas!
This is a lesson/project I did with my kids a few weeks before the end of the year. We have a social studies objective for students to understand their immediate environment and be able to describe the location of things around them using positional words. Truthfully, by the end of the year my kids have this mastered just by existing in the classroom. However, I really enjoy this map making project, and it helps the kids take the skills to the next level.
I begin by reading the book Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney. It is a great book because it shows many different kinds of maps, and helps kids to understand that maps can describe very big areas (like the world or the country), but also small areas, like a room.
I then challenge the kids to make a map of our classroom. I model the process first for the whole group. I introduce them to my friend “Sam,” who is a new student in the class. Sam needs to know where the important places are in the classroom. I model how to imagine that the sides of the paper are the walls of the room. I then use Sam to help them envision walking into the room, and considering what you would see and where. I draw and label some of these important places.
I then turn it over to the kids. I make sure not to complete a map – I want them to have to do the work of transferring their classroom on to the paper, which involves walking around the room, drawing the major places, and labeling.
It usually takes my kids several sessions to complete their maps, and we finish by coloring the maps with colored pencils. This lesson is one that really highlights a different set of skills. The kids need to use spatial awareness and logic to create their maps, and I find that the task is very challenging and intriguing to the kids. They also love Sam!
Here are some of the kids’ maps of our room:
Do you teach your kids about maps? How do you bring maps “to life” for your students?