Map skills is a unit that is not in my standards and I’m not required to teach; however, I do think that it’s important to refresh my students’ memories as to what they learned in previous years. Sure, they most likely know the cardinal directions, how to use a grid to identify a specific location, and what a scale on a map is for. What I found was that my students knew certain terms, but were not able to apply them when actually working with maps. I created this map skills unit to help my students take their understanding up a notch and dig deeper into various map activities.
Perhaps one of the first things students learn in a unit on maps are cardinal and intermediate directions. On this page of the unit, I describe what a compass rose is, where the directions are, and students need to demonstrate their understanding of the passage by cutting out the directions and placing it on the correct space on the compass rose.
Map grids are another skill that students typically understand, but are sometimes confused as to what comes first – the letter or the number. I always tell my students to think of a grid on a map (or a coordinate grid in math) like an elevator. You have to get in the elevator before you can go up. I have my students imagine that they walk over to the elevator, then the elevator goes up to the floor they want to stop in. With this activity, students are engaged because they are given 10 different pirate symbols and are asked to cut them out and glue them onto the grid within the island. Then, students can either write down the location of each item, or they can switch papers and have a friend solve it.
Another way for students to show their understanding of a legend and a compass rose is to create their own map. Students can draw their own map, complete with symbols that they identify in the key. I always try to tell my students that the symbols do not need to be very detailed, but must somehow represent the object they are referring to.