Map Skills Thematic Unit Plan for First Grade

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The theme of this unit is map skills. The unit is based on this theme and will focus on cardinal directions and a variety of maps. After each activity, you will find how you can assess the students' learning.


  • Concept web
  • Cardinal directions
  • Student Journal
  • Place-mat of neighborhood
  • "Me on the Map" by Joan Sweeny
  • Clay
  • "Franklin's Neighborhood" by Paulette Bourgeois
  • Town map worksheet
  • Art supplies
  • Salt maps
  • Treasure box


Throughout this unit, the students will partake in whole group, small group, and individual activities. Each student will participate in varied activities that incorporate language arts, social studies, mathematics, and science. The students will also keep a journal where they will write with creative spelling, draw, and answer questions.

Activity One: Introduction to Unit

Time: 30 min.

As an introduction to this unit, have the whole class participate in filling in a concept web about maps. While the students are filling in the web, show them examples of different kinds of maps. Then introduce them to cardinal directions. Have an N, S, E, and W placed appropriately on the walls of the classroom. To make sure all of the students comprehend correctly have the students stand up and face north, south, and so on. Once they understand, then have students identify an object in the classroom by using a series of directional clues to aid the students to identify a mystery object. Next, divide the students into pairs and have one child guide their partner to an object using the directional clues. For example, take four giant steps east, now take three tiny steps north.

(Social Studies/Geography, Body-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal)

Assessment - Have students draw where the north, south, east, and west locations are in their journal.

Activity Two: Cardinal Directions

Time: 25 min.

To reinforce cardinal directions, have the students play "Simon Says" using the terms north, south, east, and west (which is labeled on the classroom walls). Then, hand each student a laminated placemat of a neighborhood. Use cardinal directions to direct the students to find a particular spot on the map.

(Social Studies/Geography, Body-Kinesthetic, Intrapersonal)

Assessment/Homework: - Have students map out the route they traveled to and from school. Encourage them to look for landmarks and say if they made a right turn and went east or west.

Activity Three: Map Key

Time: 30-40 min.

Read the story "Franklin's Neighborhood" by Paulette Bourgeois. Discuss the places Franklin went to and the map key and symbols on the map. Then hand out a map of a town worksheet where students must circle important landmarks. For example, circle the police station in blue, the fire station in red, and the school in green. Review cardinal directions and have students tell you where specific things are located on the map.

(Social Studies/Geography, Mathematics, Literature, Logical-Mathematical, Interpersonal, Visual-Spatial)

Assessment - Groups students together and have them share their maps by asking "Find ____ on my map." Then have students draw a picture of their favorite place from the book in their journal.

Activity Four: Mapping my World

Time: 30 min.

Read the story "Me on the Map" by Joan Sweeny. Then give each student a ball of clay. Have students roll one small ball which will represent themselves. Then have them add to that ball, which will represent their bedroom. Have them continue adding clay so each piece will represent something in their world. For example, the first ball represents me, then my room, my home, my neighborhood, my community, my state and finally my world. When the students are finished, have them cut the ball of clay in half so they can see how they are just a small piece in the world.

Social Studies/Geography, Art, Literature, Visual-Spatial, Interpersonal)

Activity Five: Body Maps

Time 30 min.

For this activity, the students will make body maps. To get started, divide students into groups of two. Have them take turns tracing one another's bodies. When they are finished, have each student label their body map with N, S, E, and W. When they have finished labeling, they can color in their bodies and draw their facial features.

(Social Studies/Geography, Art, Visual-Spatial, Body-Kinesthetic)

Assessment - You will be able to assess students by determining if they labeled their body map correctly.

Activity Six: Salt Maps

Time:30-40 min.

Students will make a salt map of their state. First, have students try to identify their state on the United States map. Next, have students create a salt map of their home state.

(Social Studies/Geography, Art, Visual-Spatial, Body-Kinesthetic)

Assessment - Place four laminated cards shaped like different states in the learning center. The student's job is to choose which shaped card is their state.

Culminating Activity: Treasure Hunt

Time: 20 min.

Have students put their map skills to use! Hide a treasure box somewhere in the classroom. Divide students into small groups and give each group a different treasure map that leads to the hidden box. When all of the groups have arrived at the treasure, open the box and distribute the treasure inside.

Social Studies/Geography, Body-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal)

Assessment - After the treasure hunt, gather the students together and discuss how each group used their map to get to the treasure.