Maps and map skills are one of those topics that we can never seem to do enough of. Every year we start out with them, but then it tends to kind of fall away until the next year. By starting the year with a really strong unit on maps and map skills with reference materials added to students’ INBs they will have a solid foundation to refer to throughout the year!
I like to start with this Types of Maps Fold-Up, because so many students don’t even recognize that there are multiple types of maps. As we fill out information on each type of map I show them on those giant roll-up map that we have in the classroom along with more examples that can be found on the internet. This website has some great information and examples of different types of maps.
From there I start from a global standpoint and move gradually to more local. On our world map, we label the continents and oceans. Then we have a healthy discussion about cardinal and ordinate directions along with the compass rose.
I love to have students try and come up with an acronym, rhyme, song or rap that will help them to remember the continents and oceans. There are a few good ones on YouTube, but I always love my students come up with much more!
Next up is a Map of the United States. While I would love for my fourth graders to know all fifty states I also live in the real world. Of course, we label Texas since that is where we live. We also label the states that share a border with Texas in addition to the states students have visited or lived. This usually ends up with about fifteen states which is a good start in my book.
After that, we move onto a map of Texas. On here we label Austin, the city we are in, and other major cities from across the state. This usually blows my students’ minds. They think that San Antonio is another state, not just a city in Texas.
I have to stifle a few laughs during this time. I know they don’t know any better, but the misconceptions are beyond amusing.
Finally, we move on to comparing a country, state, and city. Some years I use this as an assessment. Most years we complete this fold-up together including titles, government, and structural differences.
After these basic concepts, we also complete Population and Precipitation Maps as well as a variety of map skills activities that can be found in this bundle along with complete lesson plans for the unit.