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On new terrain

magazine article | Published in TES Newspaper on 21 November, 1997 | By: Jon Swain

Making and using maps develops skills across the curriculum - and it's fun, says Jon Swain

By the time children enter junior school, many will be familiar with the term "map", having made early attempts at using and making, simple picture maps and plans at key stage 1. They may also have started to discover that map work is great fun, and has natural, cross-curricular links to language, mathematics, design and art.

During the early junior years, a common activity involves drawing a treasure map or pirate island. This can lead to work on symbols, designated by a key (which can later be standardised using accepted map symbols). Later, a four-point (then an eight-point) compass can be added, and positions (or meeting points) fixed using co-ordinates in the form of alphanumeric grid references such as A5, D7. A simple scale can also be included, usually 1cm for1km.

A good way of assessing pupils' map skills is to get them to draw an island following a series of instructions. These can be designed to various grades of difficulty, and the pupils can also write a description about the exploration of their island from, say, north to south. For example: Island for lower juniors (Figure 1) You will need to include a key, scale, a four-point compass, co-ordinates.

u the island is 20km long and 12km across at its widest points * in the north is a forest * the south of the island is marshy * the west coast has a long sandy beach * there is a lighthouse on the east coast * on the east of the island is a small village of six houses called Black Hole * in the south of the island is a lake.

The exercise could be modified for upper juniors. You will need a key (using standard map symbols), a scale, an eight-point compass and four-figure co ordinates. Provide details such as: * the island is 60km long and 40km across at its widest points * in the far south-east corner is a golf course and a campsite next to a lake * in the far south-west corner is a steep round hill, 500m high * the north-west corner has a rocky coast with a steep cliff and a lighthouse * there is a village on the north of the island called Sea Cove. It has houses a church with a spire, an information centre and a post office with a public telephone next to it * there is a village in the south of the island called Low Vale, which contains a pub and a church with a tower * the villages are connected by a main road * a railway circumnavigates the island. For part of the way, it runs along an embank ment, and passes under the main north- south road.

Planning routes across an island is also an interesting activity, especially if you add costings. Pupils can be given the task of building a road across an island from west to east (Figure 2). Each square centimetre has its own cost, depending on the terrain it has to pass through or over. Diagonal moves count as one unit. Ask the pupils to plan two or three routes, working out the costings for each. Then ask them to find the cheapest route (Figure 3).

Pupils can then create their own islands, and design their own routes, over varying types of terrain, with different costings.

Knowing how to use an atlas is an important life-skill, and learning the positions of towns and cities in the United Kingdom can be an imaginative task, and can include the following skills and concepts: * sorting towns/cities into alphabetical order * using an index * understanding and using co-ordinates * locating each town/city on the map * measuring accurately in centimetres * rounding measurements up or down * measuring accurately in millimetres * converting distances into kilometres using the given scale * representing information in the form of a graph.

Ask the pupils to: * Use the index to find: London, Brighton, Manchester, Sunderland, Liverpool, Exeter, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Coventry, Bristol, Birmingham * Using their knowledge of co-ordinates, locate and mark the towns or cities on a map of the UK * Sort them out into alphabetical order and enter them on a chart - apart from London (Figure 4) * Measure the distance of each town/city from London (or wherever your own school is), rounding up or down to the nearest centimetre (more able pupils can measure in millimetres) * Convert the distances into kilometres using the scale in the atlas * Represent the distances from London on a graph in order of the nearest to the most distant (Figure 5).

An extension of this activity could be to take a map of Europe, and using a knowledge of angles, plan and plot flight paths from, say, Heathrow Airport to various capital cities.

Happy searching, finding, locating, planning, plotting, constructing, calculating, converting, measuring, drawing and colouring.

Jon Swain is a former deputy head of a junior school in Essex


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