Module 1: Developing an understanding of place

Section 1 : Mapping the local environment

Key Focus Question: How can you use the local environment to develop pupils’ understanding of maps and place?

Keywords: local environment; maps; group work; symbols; investigation; game

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:

  • used local resources to develop your skills in teaching about the physical features of home and school environments;
  • used games to extend your pupils’ understanding of maps;
  • used group work as a teaching and learning strategy to manage large and small classes.


Most pupils have some understanding of the area in which they live. They know the quickest way to their friends’ houses or the local market. When developing their understanding of place and, in particular, their mapping skills, it is always important to start with what pupils know before you move on to what they don’t know. This gives pupils confidence, because you are using what they already understand.

Building on what your pupils know about the physical features of their home and school environments, ensure you move on to more formal mapping of their local surroundings. This provides a meaningful context to explore the symbols used in mapping. The activities in this section will help you encourage your pupils’ skills in observation and help transfer their knowledge into formal symbolic representations.

You will also develop your skills in using group work in your classroom.

1. Exploring the local area in groups