Map Reading Skills


Though many of the students are familiar with GPS directions to places, it is important for students to learn how to read the different types of maps.  The lesson should be used to expand the knowledge students may already have about maps.  It includes a summary of the different types of maps, their usefulness, and other characteristics of maps, and of course how to read the maps and their features.

Map Reading Skills Lesson Plan Includes:

  • Full Teacher Guidelines with Creative Teaching Ideas
  • Instructional Content Pages about Map Reading Skills
  • Hands-on homework activities giving students practice on Map Reading Skills
  • Answer Keys
  • Common Core State Standards
  • Many Additional Links and Resources
  • Built for Grades 4-6 but can be adapted for other grade levels.

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The lesson introduces students to skills they need to read traditional maps. Maps are defined and various features are described that can be found on maps. Next the seven types of maps and their purpose are listed, such as topographical, road and climate. Longitude and latitude lines are also briefly covered.

Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction: 

  1. Ask students: If you did not have a cell phone or GPS, how would you learn how to travel from place to place?  How would you learn how to travel from the school to a place in another state?
  2. Allow for responses and discussion. Students should respond with “using a map”.  Next ask, what are some things that are found on a map that will help you get from place to place?
  3. Allow for responses and discussion. Introduce Map Reading Skills to the class.  In addition, distribute a state or local map to use during the content reading and for other uses during the lesson.
  4. Distribute Map Reading Skills content pages. Read and review the information with the students.  During the content reading, use the local or state map to identify its different features and other characteristics of a map referred to in the content.  Save the final question for the lesson closing.  Use the additional resources to enhance understanding.
  5. Distribute Activity pages. (A larger map of the U.S. may be used.) Read and review the instructions.  Pair students.  Distribute colored pencils.  Encourage students to work together on the research and information needed to create the map.  Allow student access to the Internet or other resources to create the map.  Students should develop a variety of questions, T/F, multiple choice, open-ended, etc.
  6. Once both maps are completed, the students will exchange the new map and the accompanying questions with another pair of students to answer. Original pair of students will review student’s responses.
  7. Distribute Practice page. Check and review the students’ responses.
  8. Distribute the Homework page. The next day, check and review the students’ responses.
  9. In closing, ask students: Most likely you are familiar with a GPS on phone or in a car, but what are some disadvantages of always using a GPS to travel from place to place, whether locally or across the country?
  10. Allow for responses and discussion. Students will need to think outside the box, and possible responses may include the lack of discovering new attractions, the adventure of being lost sometimes without GPS, meeting people to ask for directions, etc.

Common Core State Standards: 


Class Sessions (45 minutes): 2-3 class sessions

Additional Resources:

Want more social studies resources? Check out our other Social Studies Lesson Plans!

Additional information

Grade Level

4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies

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