The Prim-Ed Using Maps programme is a skills based programme that is shared across three books. Each book provides lesson ideas and activities to build mapping skills which link back to those prescribed in the Geography curriculum. The three books in the scheme cover First Class to Sixth Class – Book 1 for lower primary (1st and 2nd Class), Book 2 (3rd and 4th Class) and finally, Book 3 (5th and 6th Class). Each book has many photocopiable worksheets and lesson ideas. Something that is important to note, is that each book builds upon the previous one. So in Book 1, the skills are introduced in an age appropriate manner. Book 2 continues on from and builds on this, with more in-depth and challenging lessons and activities. Book 3 is of quite a high standard, and would require a lot of teacher input for the children to really benefit from the activities. If you are going to buy the scheme, I would recommend asking the school to purchase all three. It is important for the children (and the teacher) to clearly see the progression of the skills.
The scheme itself is a very valuable programme for a school to have among its store of Geography resources. Each book is very user friendly as all of the activities are mapped out on a comprehensive scope and sequence chart which ties back to the curriculum for each class level. Each book also has an extremely useful assessment grid for the skills and objectives touched on in the scheme. Ideally a school would agree within the whole school plan for Geography, what skills would be focused upon in each class level and then integrate the activities from the scheme into the whole school approach.
I was very excited to be able to use the scheme with my class this year. In the past, my focus on mapping skills would have basically been through the use of an atlas or Google maps online. When I read through the manuals, I was shocked at my own lack of knowledge at the scope of elements in teaching mapping skills. The concept of ‘mapping literacy’ was something new to me and an area I will continue to develop within my class this year.
While I teach Third Class, I chose to use the activities from Book 1. The standard of the book really suited the mix of abilities and high rate of EAL children in my class. The activities in book one are very accessible and the language and print used is very child-friendly. Some of the activities did require a lot of teacher input and instruction, while many other activities were suitable for independent and small group learning. The children really loved it when I introduced their mapping lessons. I used some of the photocopiable worksheets in Book 1 however the concepts and skills were what guided my plans and gave me inspiration to bring the learning into more interactive activities. After the teaching points and classroom based work, I tried to link the activities back to hands-on learning. For example, for the lesson and activities about different types of view (oblique, vertical or horizontal view) – the children loved having to take images of items in their homes from these different viewpoints. We shared these on Class DoJo and discussed them in class the next day. We even made a game from the images they took. It was a really effective and valuable lesson, and took very little teacher prep time!
The activities around reading scale, legends and symbols on maps really went down a treat with my class. When they were making their own maps with their legends, that was when the fun really started. The great ideas in the book (e.g. make a map of your pencil case, make a map of your desk etc) were lovely learning experiences. All of the children, regardless of ability, were able to engage successfully with most of these activities. Some children were so enthused, they carried on at home making maps of their homes, estates and the local playgrounds. It was lovely to see the children so excited while learning an important life-skill.
The focus on language especially positional language is something I found the class really needed and certainly benefited from. As my class has many children who speak different languages at home, the indepth activities and opportunities for over-learning this important vocabulary really helped them a lot. This learning then helped with maths and even their understanding of prepositions in Gaeilge!
However, my favourite part of the scheme was the use of the story maps. In Book 1, the children have to make story maps of The Three Little Pigs and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. As we covered this close to Halloween, we extended this learning into using the story map template for creating their own stories. It was a very useful tool and yielded great results. Their creativity exploded as the scaffolding provided through the lessons gave them great confidence and motivation.
I am undoubtedly a hoarder of teaching resources and books, however I think this scheme will be kept in school with my most-used teacher books. It is a great programme to pull from once you have planned for it in your long terms, and integrated it well with your SESE, Maths, PE and language activities. If you have planned to use it, the children will really enjoy the lessons and it takes the hard work out of teaching mapping skills.
If a school is looking to expand their resources for building mapping skills, I would definitely recommend this scheme. If you cannot get the three books, maybe book 1 is the best place to start if you are in 1st to 3rd Class or book 2 if you teach in 4th – 6th. If anyone has any questions or queries let me know 🙂
You can find out more about this product here: https://www.prim-ed.ie/series/using-maps/