Lesson Plan

Striking it Rich

Basic map skills to survive
Lisa B.
Classroom teacher
Hershey Middle School
Hershey, United States
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My Subjects Social Studies

Students will be able to identify the different parts of a map and their function. 

Social Studies
Grades 4 – 8
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Activity: Exploring

Ask students to walk around the Social Studies classroom and count the number of maps they see. If students have different answers, ask 'what qualifies as a map?'

2 Simulation

Google Drive
Free, Paid

This lesson will teach students to pay attention to map details, specifically the map grid. Before the lesson, create a map grid using letters and numbers along the ceiling. I use the ceiling tiles as the natural grid. Also hang signs indicating North, South, East, and West in the classroom.

Divide the class into pairs. Send one student per pair into the hall to read an article about the effect oil has had on Alberta, Canada (like this one from Newsela). Once the group is settled in the hall. Place five images of oil barrels randomly (but at predetermined locations) around the room. The second student group will be the cartographer who is responsible for drawing a map to show where the oil can be found. Set a timer and give them 5 minutes. Collect the maps and send them into the hall to read the same article.

A blizzard hits the classroom: move chairs, flip desks, rearrange furniture. The five barrels of oil should be flipped over. Also add 15 images of a pile of dirt face down on the ground. On the back of both sets of images are numbers from 1-20.

Once the room looks like a disaster, get the first student group, hand them the map drawn by their partner, and tell them to write down the 5 numbers that they believe are oil. They may NOT flip over any of the papers.  Set the timer and give them 2 minutes to write down their guesses on the map. At the end of the time, collect the maps. Bring everyone back into the room.

3 Reflection

Activity: Conversing

Bring all the students back into the room. Have them straighten it up (except for the papers). Debrief about the activity:

  • Why was it challenging to follow the maps?
  • What would make it easier to find the exact points?
  • Based on your knowledge of math, what do you think is a map grid?
  • Did anyone notice/use the map grid?

Have students who followed the maps guess which numbers were the oil. Have them flip it over to check. Re-collect all the papers of oil and dirt to be ready for the next class.

Show list of four terms: have the students define what they do.

          Map Title, Map Key, Map Grid, and Compass Rose

4 Map Scavenger Hunt

Activity: Exploring

Students will work with a small group and be given a random map. Groups will not have the same map. They will need to find a place that fits the requirements listed. Most of the items will be based on the Map Key, but it will also require observation and attention to detail.

GoogleDoc with ideas for the Map Scavenger Hunt.

5 Closure

Free to try, Paid

Close with a song about parts of the map, like Mappy Map from Flocabulary.