1st Grade New York

Maps and Geography

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of maps and spatial representation, exploring how and why we depict the physical world the way we do on maps. The compelling question “Can my life fit on a map?” encourages students to consider our ability to represent real-world places on a map. In doing so, students explore the meaning and purpose of maps, the tools that help us represent places, the purposes of those tools, and how we use those tools to read and make maps. This inquiry provides a foundation for students to develop their geographic reasoning and map literacy, both of which are critical to understanding how humans interact with geography and geographic features across time and space. The manner in which students gather, compare and contextualize, and eventually apply evidence should enable them to make and support their arguments in response to the compelling question.


Compelling Question:

Can My Life Fit on a Map?

Staging the Question:

Brainstorm the components of the term “my life.”

Supporting Question What are map symbols and how do I use them?

Formative Task Identify three or four map symbols and explain how and why they are helpful.

Sources Source A: 2nd Grade Understanding and Making Maps Symbols
Source B: Image bank: Photographs and maps


Supporting Question What are cardinal directions and how do I use them?

Formative Task Write a paragraph describing how to locate an object in the classroom using directional vocabulary.

Sources Source A: “Learn about Maps”
Source B: Image bank: Cardinal directions


Supporting Question What are the other tools on a map and how do they work?

Formative Task Complete an I Notice/I Think chart drawing inferences about the purpose of map features.

Sources Source A: Image bank: Maps and map features


Supporting Question How can I make a map of a real-life place?

Formative Task Based on a walking tour of the block or surrounding area, make a map of the area around the school.

Sources Source A: “How to Draw a Map”
Source B: How to Make a Map for Kids

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Can my life fit on a map? Construct an argument supported by evidence that addresses whether or not all the parts of your life can fit on a map.
Extension: Pick another place that is an important part of your life and research the natural and manmade features in and around it. Make another map showing this place and include a title, symbols, map key, and compass rose.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Research a place in or near your school where there is an empty lot or unused land. Brainstorm a list of ideas for how to transform the space. From those ideas, create a map with a title, symbols, and compass rose to represent those ideas for using the space.
Assess: Bring the maps and ideas to a school or local official to review.
Act: Conduct a fundraiser at school with the help of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or another group to raise money to create the selected project.