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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Map Skills: What we do

If you read this blog even remotely regularly, you'll catch on that I've ever-so-slightly had geography on the brain lately.  :)   See here and here if you doubt my words ;)  It's not that geography is all that we do... it's not even one of the MAIN things, so I'm not sure of the reason for all the latest craze!

But here we are.  :)

I've mentioned here that we've been using A Child's Geography: Explore The Holy Land by Ann Voskamp for the second half of AOy5 into the first half of this year.  In addition to mapping the readings for AmblesideOnline (which we have NOT been uber-faithful in doing for EVERY book over the years) we also hone our map skills using map drills ala SimplyCharlotteMason style

Here's what we do:

In AOy4 or AOy5, we formally begin Map Skills (depending on the child's skill level).  We use blackline maps and do the same sort of thing as we would do with picture study only with maps!  It's fun.  We pick a continent/region to concentrate on each term.  I give the boys their maps, they spend about 5 minutes looking at/memorizing what they can from the labeled map.  When they're done, or the time's up, they turn over the map and fill in everything they can remember - the country names/oceans, etc.  After a couple of weeks, once they have the general idea of the continent being studied, they usually like to spend time looking from various atlas maps as the coloring and such varies and makes it more interesting.

Now, since we do this weekly, there is no need to be sloppy.  They are to memorize one or two states or countries perfectly (spelling & capitalization) and fill them in.  Or, they are to remember as many as they possibly can and then refine the spelling later on (I prefer the former, my kids the latter ;).

They either hand this in for me to look over, or they self-correct using the labeled side of their map, or an atlas (this depends on my own assessment of how detail-oriented they are, or in need of encouragement).  They then wipe off their maps and store them away.

Also, since there are years of school ahead... I don't stress out about how much they remember (by the end of the term it is pretty amazing what all they know!).  Of course I want them to put forth their best effort, but they'll have other opportunities throughout the years to look at a map as it comes up in their readings and other studies.  What I'm aiming for is a good understanding of who is neighbors with who, which countries border the sea, which are land-bound, etc.  I also do try to choose a map that corresponds with what they'll be studying in the AO year they are in.


Blackline map of the region desired.
Sheet protectors (with a glossy finish).
Fine tip, wet-erase pens (overhead markers).
Clear packaging tape (optional).
Sponge for wiping (optional).

  1. Print off maps (preferably find a map that has both labeled and blank versions of the same map, otherwise you'll have to fill in one neatly...)
  2. Tuck into the sheet protector one labeled and one blank map back to back.
  3. Tape the open edge shut (this will prevent your map from getting yucky when little people clean it off.
  4. You are good to go!
Helpful Links:

THE 3 best sites online for FREE labeled and blank outline maps of the various regions -
National Geographic (print detailed, basic and even as simple continent outline, in .gif or .pdf!) & (available in .pdf only)

Expo Vis-A-Vis Wet Erase Markers, 8 Colored Markers - $7.50!  (pack of 4 pens is $6.50)
Avery Diamond Clear Heavyweight Sheet Protectors, Acid Free, Pack of 25 - These are the ones I use, cost a little more but are VERY good quality!  A great investment.


Phyllis said...

This was a very interesting and practical post. We have not done it this way before. I want to give it a try. We have always just had them make their own maps. Not by tracing, but by looking at them closely and drawing them. It makes them pay more attention to the maps as well. This looks like a good additional way for them to learn maps, however. Thanks!

amy in peru said...

@Phyllis, this is what we do with A Child's Geography! We've done individual maps of Israel, Turkey and Egypt so far. I think it is an EXCELLENT way to do individual countries!! I use the map drills for continents at a time. So far with the map drills we've covered USA, Europe and will begin Africa soon (as we're reading David Livingstone) :)

The boys seem to like it because it is SHORT! Only takes about 10 minutes and little by little they really start to get it! ;)

Carrie said...

Oh, I LOVE this idea! I just bookmarked this post to come back to when I plan for next year! Thanks for another fabulous idea!! ;)

Mel said...

Thanks for the great post Amy! Love this idea of using sheet protectors and wipe-off markers! My kids love mapping and we are enjoying Ann's book too. :)

Trisha said...

Such great and very practical suggestions, Amy! Thank you.

Janelle said...

Amy, just stumbled on your blog - after coming home from a SCM conference yesterday! She covered this map-drill there so I enjoyed reading your application too! I am going to try this in our school this week - I hope to have success with it! It sure seems easy & fun - thanks for your blog carnival & this post!!

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