Learn All About Map Skills!

Basic Map Skills Activities

Point your students in the right direction this school year by helping them learn basic map skills! Our September blog post features three fun activities that teach important map skills, including cardinal directions, latitude and longitude, and how to make a compass rose. Read on to discover how you can map out a successful start to the new school year with these fun social studies activities!

Students will love using their creativity to learn about basic map skills with the following hands-on activities! You won't need any fancy supplies to do these map skills projects with your students; we've made it easy for you to keep each project simple and straightforward. Be sure to tag @superteacherworksheets on social media if you do any of these activities with your class so we can come say hello and check out your map adventures. 😊

Learn Cardinal Directions with House Blueprints 

Cardinal Directions Activity

Here's a fun activity kids can do with a partner to test each other's knowledge of cardinal directions. Students will describe the layout of their house to a classmate using basic cardinal directions. Their partner will sketch an accurate floor plan based on the directions he or she is given. Let's take a look at how this activity works:

Pair up your students so everyone has a partner. One student will describe his "house blueprints" to his partner so she can sketch a likeness. Partners will switch roles so that both students have an opportunity to practice the cardinal directions. 

Provide two basic templates to each student. (Every pair of students should have four blank templates between them.) Students will use the first template to draw a sketch of their own house blueprints, and they will use the second template to sketch the house blueprints their partner describes to them. You can use a word processor like Microsoft Word to draw a basic rectangle with the shape tool. Depending on how challenging you want to make this activity, you may choose to include a basic compass rose in the corner of the template as well (or not). You can copy and paste an image or sketch one of your own. 

First, each partner will sketch out the main floor of their house on the first blank template. This will make it easier for them to describe the house layout to their partner using the cardinal directions. 

Next, the student who is in charge of describing his house first will use short descriptive phrases to walk his partner through the floor plan using the cardinal directions, North, South, East, and West. Students will begin their description with the front door and continue to describe each room on the main floor of the house using cardinal directions in relation to the previous rooms described. 

Check out our example in the picture above. 

If Nora is describing her house to her partner, she might give simple directions like these: 

"When you walk through the front door of my house, you will be in the foyer. The living room is North of the foyer."

Nora's partner will draw the front door, foyer, and living room before Nora continues with her directions. 

"My bedroom is West of the living room." (Her partner draws the next room.) 

"The hallway is North of my bedroom." 

"My brother, Graham's bedroom is North of the hallway."

"The dining room is East of Graham's bedroom."

And so on. 

Have fun with this one! Since students are trying hard to describe and draw a floor plan that is familiar to one person, and not to the other, expect that things may look a little goofy. The important thing to encourage with this activity is to make sure the students are using the cardinal directions accurately throughout the exercise. If the kitchen ends up outside the house because a student ran out of room, but it's correctly placed East of the dining room—call it good! Your students are headed in the right direction. 😉

Learn Latitude and Longitude with Printable Maps

Latitude and Longitude Activity

Teach latitude and longitude with a fun activity you can do with your whole class. Do you have a classroom map of the U.S., Canada, or the whole globe? Perfect! Let's put it to use with this exercise that gets all your students involved. 

Assign latitude and longitude coordinates to each of your students. (Your latitude and longitude coordinates should correspond with a major city on your classroom map, so you will have to do a little prep-work ahead of time.) You can have students pick their coordinates from a hat or you can assign coordinates to every student on your class roster. 

Students will take turns going up to the classroom map and using the latitude and longitude coordinates you have given them to find the mystery city they have been assigned. Students will say the name of their city out loud before returning to their seats. 

Alternatively, if your classroom map does not include lines of latitude and longitude, you may wish to print out latitude and longitude activities from the Super Teacher Worksheets Map Skills page! Your students can practice finding coordinates on maps of the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Fun! 

Make a Beautiful Compass Rose

Compass Rose Activity

Help your students make their own stunning compass rose with this simple art project! You will need some colorful paper for this activity. You can use construction paper, magazine clippings, or scrapbook paper like we did. You will also need a piece of computer paper or cardstock, a pencil, a marker, scissors, and a glue stick. Here's what to do: 

Use your pencil to draw a compass rose on a piece of computer paper or cardstock. (There are some great kid-friendly tutorials on YouTube for drawing a compass rose!)

Cut out each segment of the compass rose. You may find it helpful to label each segment to help you remember how to put the pieces back together. We labeled our bigger segments B1, B2, B3, and B4 in clockwise fashion. We did the same for our smaller segments: S1, S2, S3, and S4. 

Next, trace each segment onto different colors of construction paper, magazine clippings, or scrapbook paper. Feel free to mix and match colors. Cut out each tracing. To keep track of the pieces, lay them next to or on top of each original tracing piece or label the back of each segment to match its tracing piece. 

Finally, trace a circle from another piece of colorful paper. You can use the lid of a mason jar or coffee canister, or whatever circular shape you have on hand. Cut out the circle and set it aside. 

Now it's time to put the pieces of your compass rose together! First, choose another piece of colorful paper that would make a nice background. We recommend picking a color that will help the compass rose stand out. Next, use the glue stick to adhere the circle you traced to the center of your background paper. Finally, fit together the pieces of your compass rose atop the circle and glue them together. Start with the four bigger segments and fill in with the four smaller segments. 

Add the cardinal directions, N, S, E, and W, and the intercardinal directions, NE, SE, SW, and NW, to the points of your compass rose. 

Wow, what a beautiful piece of artwork! 

We hope you and your students will love learning basic map skills with these fun social studies activities. If you are looking for more educational resources for teaching map skills, check out the Super Teacher Worksheets Map Skills page. While you're at it, be sure to browse our complete collection of Social Studies Worksheets for kindergarten through fifth grade! 

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