Map Features and Purposes

This lesson offers a general overview of how maps “work” and how they are used to identify location, direction, and distance. Students read an informational text and build a glossary of common map terms, such as legend, scale, and compass rose.

Where in the World?

How can we describe our location relative to other places? Students investigate a variety of maps and identify the continents, oceans, and hemispheres. They use their growing knowledge of geography to solve riddles, identifying several mystery locations based on their position relative to the equator, other continents, and the oceans.

Using Grids to Describe Locations

How can we be precise when finding locations? Students learn about grid systems, and how maps and globes use latitude and longitude to describe absolute locations across the world. They also investigate how latitude can be used to make generalizations about climate.

Text Feature Scavenger Hunt

Students prepare for reading a nonfiction text about North America by scanning text features to determine their purpose. They discuss and record findings, and then reflect on how text features aid in comprehension.

Text Feature Scavenger Hunt (Digging Deeper)

Students use what they know about text features to gather information from a nonfiction text. They will scan for key facts related to the physical characteristics of an assigned continent, and reflect on how the text features helped them to find and understand the information. They will share this information in a small-group discussion. Use this lesson to help students dig deeper into the skill of identifying and using text features.

Continent Bumper Stickers

What makes Earth’s major land masses truly “major?” Students embark on an online investigation to uncover the geographic features that make a continent unique, then use this information to craft a bumper sticker slogan that highlights one of these distinctive characteristics.

Reflecting on Maps (Checkpoint Assessment)

Through this Essential Question, students have investigated the stories that maps tell. This final lesson may be used as a checkpoint assessment of cumulative learning throughout this Essential Question. Here, students apply their growing knowledge of maps and world geography – including continents, oceans, and hemispheres – to label a map and solve map riddles.

Global Connections

Essential Question

What stories do maps tell?

Students learn how maps are used to identify location, direction, and distance. They solve riddles about relative location, explore how latitude and longitude are used, and examine the key details and geographic features of the continents.


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