Incorporating Maps into Everything

Prevent a cartophobic generation by including maps in everything you do in the classroom! The 2nd one is my favorite!
Maps. They are everywhere in the world, but yet are underrepresented in our classrooms. Why is this?

Story time: I have the directionality of a nat, and honestly most nats would probably take offense at that statement. Give me a map and I have a bit of trouble doing anything. This becomes a bit of an issue when I work part-time for a company that puts on races, this half marathons and triathlons, where my job is you guessed it, setting up the course. This of course requires me to read a map, usually not to scale, with someone's, who is not readily available for questions, chicken scratch all over it. Let's just say it gets ugly.

So the last time I was staring blankly at a map hoping to recognize something, anything that makes sense to me I got to thinking. I really think that I have some sort of map phobia, or cartophobia. I wish I were kidding.

While not doing my job, or putting off having to actually figure out the map, I started thinking about why I have such an aversion to maps. I think it really has everything to do with the fact that I didn't really work with maps outside of identifying the parts of a map in elementary school until I was an adult. Even when I first started driving if I was going somewhere I didn't know I would print out the MapQuest directions and go step by step (yes, this is what we did before we had phones with Google Maps), never looking at an atlas or even a city map.

That is all to say that I was inspired to introduce more maps into our classrooms, because while Google Maps is absolutely wonderful, and saves me daily, I would like to think that we can inspire a new generation of cartophobia-less people.

So on with it already right? I tried to think of all the ways I could to include maps within the context of all content areas, because we all know integration is the only way to make it work.

Maps and Literature

Make it a class project to find maps, most likely via the internet, for the settings of all the books you read. Begin small with your read alouds, and soon I think students will get into and want to find maps for the settings of their own reads too. Can you imagine what a wonderful bulletin board that would make???

Don't stop here though, start asking questions about the maps once you have them. You can begin with little questions like, "What direction would you have to go from San Antonio to get to Austin?" and work your way towards more critical thinking skills. 

I am imagining a plethora of maps hung around the room, or on a bulletin board, and that is the go to area when you have a spare thirty seconds before heading to lunch specials. I would even suggest having students generate the questions and submitting them to try and stump the class. 

Maps are also an excellent item to study when learning about nonfiction text features. Many maps display different text features all in one location.

Maps and Classroom Community

Maps even have a place in community building activities. For example you could work on team building with this Maps Fan & Pick Activity, or class building with this Maps Find Someone Who Activity. Why not get a double whammy of goodness with maps and community in one place?

Maps and Math

Maps go pretty naturally with math when it comes to coordinate planes, which is a great use, so I am going to scoot right past it to another idea. 

How about having students create and/or answer word problems about maps. This is really applicable for all levels, because you can start with counting items such as, "How many intersections are in the city of Carthage?"

Of course questions can be as complex as you would like as well, and I think the real power from this comes from students generating the questions. 

Another natural fit is using maps with your geometry unit. Maps, especially city maps, are full of lines and angles. Imagine the possibilities! 

There is also a plethora of ways that you can use maps when studying measurement, particularly distance. 

Maps and Writing

The first idea I have for maps that includes writing is a letter writing campaign. Each student could write a letter to a tourism office in a place they are interested in learning about requesting a map. Most places still carry paper city maps, and are happy to send one. 

Another idea would be to use maps as inspiration for creative writing. Each student can randomly select a map to study and then create a story for. Imagine the creativity that could be unleashed when all students are given is a location, but otherwise have complete freedom to just write! 

Prevent a cartophobic generation by including maps in everything you do in the classroom! The 2nd one is my favorite! A third idea is to have students plan a route for a trip using Google Maps that they can then reference specific geographic points on while writing about their trip. 

Maps and Science

This is where I say use the ever living daylights out of Google Maps and Google Earth. 

The first thing that comes to mind is to look at landforms and the way they are changing due to weathering, erosion, and deposition. 

Really anything you are studying that has a location can be linked to maps immediately. Learning about the rain forest, let's take a look at where it is on the world map. Learning about Marie Curie? Why not pull out a map of her birth place?

Maps and Art

Are you looking for your students to have a little more freedom? How about having them create their own maps based on either a literary place or even their own imaginary location. Encourage students to include detail, map features, and write questions that could be answered by their maps. 

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  1. As a Spanish teacher currently K-8 but having taught all levels, Preschool-High School AP Spanish, I SO agree with the need to teach maps!!! The physical geography component of education is totally non existant...including here in NC!!...I have had answers such as South Carolina is the country to the South of the USA, Spain is the 'state' to the South of Texas and the Pacific Ocean is the ocean closest to Our state of NC. PLEASE let's bring back the study of physical geography so that our precious students will understand what is where!!

    1. All of this! Being in Texas many students think the state to the north is Canada and the state to the south is Mexico. I always hang my head when looking over map/geography assessments.


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