2. Using a game to introduce maps

Observing the features of an environment is a first step to producing a map. To help your pupils understand a map, you need to introduce them to the idea of symbols.

Case Study 2 shows how one teacher uses a game to help pupils learn about using symbols. By planning and devising a game around a topic of interest to the pupils, this teacher has made it much more likely that they will engage in the activity and therefore learn more. The use of a game will involve your pupils in active learning; it will be fun for them and will help them remember more. Read Case Study 2 before you plan and try Activity 2.

Case Study 2: Symbol treasure hunt

Miss Jane Musonda, a teacher of Grade 5 pupils in Mbala, wanted to build on pupils’ knowledge of direction and the local environment to introduce the idea of using symbols to represent physical features. She decided to hold a treasure hunt.

Before the lesson, she observed six physical features of the school, including the gates, the large tree and the head teacher’s office. She found six pieces of cardboard and drew one symbol on each to represent one feature (e.g. a desk for the head teacher’s office). She then numbered the card and added directions to the next symbol on each card. She placed the pieces of card at their specific locations.

In class, the pupils were divided into ‘search parties’ and given their first clues. They had to go outside the classroom, and turn in an easterly direction – the teacher helped by telling them this to get started. When they found the card at the feature this gave them the next direction to move in, and another symbol to find, and so on.

The pupils found this game very exciting. They were very involved in trying to work out what the symbols meant and move in the right direction. Miss Musonda followed the groups around and was on hand to help any that were struggling with what the symbols meant or which direction to follow.

Everyone reached the final card. Miss Musonda was pleased because she knew they had managed to interpret all the symbols and understand direction better.

Activity 2: Using symbols

  • Begin your lesson with a brief explanation of the use and importance of map symbols. Ask pupils to give you examples of common symbols that they know that are used around them (e.g. on roads) and use these to build up a list of standard symbols. (See Resource 1: Map symbols for some examples.) You could build the list up over a week and make a classroom display.
  • Ask pupils to think about why the geological survey department has used these symbols rather than words. This kind of questioning will help them to think of the value and importance of symbols. (See Key Resource: Using questioning to promote thinking [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)
  • Now ask each pupil to think of three physical features they see on their way to school (see Activity 1) and draw a symbol for each. After a few minutes, ask pupils to swap their symbols with a partner. Can the partners guess what the symbols mean?
  • Ask some pupils to come and draw their symbols on the board. Can other pupils work out what they mean?
  • Finish the lesson by seeing if the pupils can decide what makes a good symbol.
  • List their reasons on the board.

1. Exploring the local area in groups

3. Working together to create a map