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Developing Mapping Skills

Why teach mapping skills?

Mapping is one of the skills required for students to develop a knowledge and understanding of places, patterns and processes, environmental change and sustainable development. Along with its place in the learning area ‘Society and environment’, mapping is also a part of the ‘Shape and space’ strand of mathematics.


Introducing mapping skills


Positional and directional language—for example, in front of, behind, next to, up, down, right, left, north, south, east, west,—must be reinforced to help students understand relationships within space.
Practical activities: using the students in relation to classroom furniture and resources, is a fun way to help students remember and understand each term; e.g. ‘Sarah stand next to Michael’, ‘Place the book opposite the clock’.

Understanding maps

To develop an understanding of place, students need to ask and understand the questions Where? Why? When? and How? For example, with a picture of a lounge room, ‘Where is the television? Why is it there? Why is the lounge facing the television?’ As students develop their enquiring minds, they will be able to study maps in more detail, and understand how and why maps of a place change over time.

Reading Maps

Students must be taught that maps and plans are always drawn from a bird’s-eye view. Providing a plan and a picture of the same place helps students to appreciate the relationship between the two. They also provide a springboard for questions using positional and directional language; e.g. ‘Which stall is opposite the Hall of Mirrors? Turn left at the dodgem cars, what do you see? Can you plan a route through the park?’

Drawing maps

Drawing the ‘bird’s-eye view’ symbol for any feature can present a problem when students attempt to draw their own maps. Activities requiring them to match pictures of common map features, such as equipment on a map of a playground, to their bird’s-eye view equivalent, are a fun way of reinforcing the concept and helping them to recognise each feature.
Give students clear guidelines of what is required on the map and limit the number of features to what is appropriate to their ability. Reinforce the need for a bird’s-eye view. Ask students to share and evaluate their maps providing feedback and ideas for improvement. When students indicate that they are ready, legends can be added. By studying simple maps of familiar environments and answering questions which use specific vocabulary, students begin to understand how a map can be a representation of a real place.

Mapping activities