Teaching Geographical Concepts and Skills in Primary Social Studies, pp. 7 of 13

Studies have shown that children at an early age develop geographical skills (Boardman 1983; Catling, 1995; Stoltman, 1992). Their map or picture drawing of places often precedes their development in reading and writing skills. Such development in map understanding, spatial awareness and competencies continue with age and experience. Maps are what drive children to be curious about their world. The implication is that it is never too early to teach children map reading and globe skills.

Research has also shown that there is a strong link between children’s environmental experiences and the development of their mapping skills (Boardman, 1983; Catling, 1995; Stoltman, 1992). The implication is to provide children with opportunities to explore their environments, both near and far, indoor and outdoor, using maps. These research findings confirm that map reading skills have a place in the primary school curriculum. 

According to Wiegand (1993), students need to acquire the following knowledge and skills in map reading:

  • Understand that maps show the plan views of ground features when viewed from above.
  • Interpret map symbols and understand that the information on the map is selective and is determined by the purpose of the map.
  • Locate places using grid lines that are expressed as numbers or/and letters on maps.
  • Tell directions using cardinal and compass points.
  • Interpret the relationships between map features.   

Whenever appropriate, map readings skills should be integrated into the primary social studies lessons and be reinforced in other subjects. Since such skills are developmental, teachers need to revisit and build upon what their students have learnt previously during lessons.    

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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