Exploring Maps in 2nd Grade: Geography Activities to Learn About Maps

A Simple Map

Ask students to stand up and look at their desk or table top. Ask them what they see on it. Ask how they could show a friend their desk top even if they were not an artist!. Demonstrate on a chart how shapes can represent books, pencils, erasers etc. Ask your students to make a map of their desk or table top. Then, explain to them that they need to provide "clues" about the shapes. Introduce the words "key" and "legend". Demonstrate how to show the legend in a corner of the drawing.

A Different Perspective

Provide students with objects that have the same shape top and bottom e.g. 3-D geometric shapes. Place them on the floor and ask students to look down on them. Then draw around the shapes. Mix up the objects and then invite students to match the objects to the shapes drawn on the paper. Point out that you have changed the object from one that you can pick up to a "symbol."

The next step is to provide a cardboard box with windows and doors cut out to represent the classroom. Ask the students to look down at the box and slowly turn it around so that it is matching the room. In small groups, invite the students to furnish the model using blocks or counters – tell them that it does not matter that the furniture is not the same shape because they are using "symbols" to represent the furniture.

Replace the blocks and counters with labels. Now, when the students look into the model, there is a "paper " plan or map in place.The children can now make their own drawing from this model. Suggest that they place an "X" on their map to show where they are sitting.

Story Maps

Many stories provide wonderful opportunities for map making. After sharing The Secret Birthday Message, by Eric Carle, ask students to imagine that they are birds high up in a tree. They are looking down on the route that Tim is following to find his birthday surprise.

Ask them to make a map of Tim's journey. Remind them to add features such as Tim's house, trees, rocks etc. Suggest that they make use of the symbols that are in the letter.

Use any well-known story that has a journey such as Snow White or Hansel and Gretel and divide the students into small groups to make a map of the story. Remind them to include a legend.

Display a copy of a story map and overlay it with a plastic sheet. On the plastic sheet draw an alphanumeric grid. Retell the story but this time, use the number and letter to describe the location of the action. Ask students to say what is in the square before the story can continue.

Where Do We Live?

Obtain a local map and display it in the classroom. Using "sticky notes," mark where students live. Explain that the "sticky note" is a symbol representing their homes. Invite each student to come to the map and "finger walk" from his or her house to the school. Students can then make a map of their route to school.

Maps are ordered ways of showing our surroundings. Students need to move from the known to the wider community, country and world. These activities will open your student’s mind up to the travel and exploration as well as give them valuable experience for the real world.