If you were to ask your students, “What is a map?” what do you think they would say?
Years ago, if someone had asked me that question I would have replied that a map is something that shows you how to get from here to there. Prior to coming to the Library, little did I know that maps do so much more: they tell fascinating stories about the people who made them, how they lived, what was important to them, what they knew and what they didn’t know. Maps also make claims, persuade, advertise and influence.
Helping your students discover some of these possibilities for themselves is a great way to begin using historic maps in the classroom. Set the scene by having students brainstorm a list entitled “What do maps tell us?” and post it on the wall. Follow up with one or more of the following map analysis activities. After each activity, ask the question again and add to the list.
- Display Zoom Into Maps and let your students pick one type of map to explore together. Use the guiding questions provided as you explore the details of one of the maps.
- Have students discover what a map can tell us about its creator with the online interactive Maps and Mapmakers: Seeing What’s on the Map.
- Select a map of interest to your students from Maps From The World Digital Library or Primary Sources by State (click on a state). Facilitate a whole-class analysis of the map with questions from the Teachers Guide to Analyzing Maps. Record responses on the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
- Analyzing Primary Sources: Maps – Self-paced professional development module for teachers; includes interactive map analysis practice.
- Map Collections – Online access to the Library’s digitized map collections.
Ask your students what maps can tell us. It will be fascinating to hear what today’s youth – with digital mapping tools at their fingertips every day – have to say. Please include your grade level.