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FNSS Curriculum Integration Project Click here to download this lesson.
Colline Rivest (MS-Word format.)

Grade: 2/3
Lesson 1: Map Symbols & Simple Keys
Time: 45-60 minutes

Topic: Recognizing symbols and features on maps.

Rationale: This lesson on mapping skills reflects the learning outcomes listed in the environment strand of the grade 2/3 Social Studies Integrated Resource Package. This lesson may be broken down into two shorter lessons. For lesson three in this series, it is important that the students understand what a community is with specific reference to First Nations communities (bands).

Materials and Resources

  • Classroom
  • 6 map symbols (printed and pasted to stiff paper)
  • Poster paper
  • Colouring supplies
  • Classroom Map Thinksheet (1 per student)
  • Map of Canada

Main concepts

  • Interpret basic map symbols
  • Create symbols and a legend/key for a simple map
  • Identify features of a map (legend/key, size and a "bird's eye" view of objects)

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • Create and interpret simple maps using cardinal directions, symbols, and simple keys

Vocabulary in Material

all illustration representing the whole or part of a geographical area
a small box found on a map that shows all the symbols used on the map and what each symbol represents; interchangeably called a legend when referring to a map
a simple picture that represents something more complex
a specially prominent characteristic
Perspective, "bird's-eye view"
seen from above as if by a flying bird

Planned Learning Activities

  • Introduce Mapping: symbols, key features (roads etc.), map attributes (legend, perspective)
  • A Look at the Classroom:
    • Discuss: What is in here? What are the key features in this room? (3 min)
    • Have students analyze their classroom and record names (write label, not draw) of 6 key features on worksheet (Classroom Map Thinksheet) (10 min)
    • Show students 6 common map symbols (printed) and discuss attributes (eg. simple, basic, not detailed, represents a feature on a map); students try to name each symbol (4 min); show map of Canada; have students try to find the 6 common symbols on the map
    • Introduce "key" or "legend" as a map attribute; location on a map, what does the legend tell us; have students find the legend on the map of Canada (5 min)
    • Have students generate their own simple symbols that could represent the key features of the room (eg. sink, door, window, center, etc.) and draw them on Classroom Map Thinksheet (10 min)
    • Have students make a poster/map of their classroom using the symbols they generated; discuss important criteria before students begin their drawings (20 minutes or begin today and finish as a second lesson and review)


  • Observation - using new vocabulary; methods used in creating own map
  • Collect Classroom Map Thinksheet
  • Collect student created maps for evaluation:
    • Symbols used are relevant
    • Legend/key is included and reflects symbols actually used on map (optional)
    • Esthetics - neatness, colour, perspective, size of objects


  • Perspective: teach "bird's-eye view" vs. side view etc.
    Example: Students look down and draw the top of their shoe as they see it - then place the shoe on top of their desk and draw it look at it from the side.

Other Integration Opportunities

  • Math - have students figure out distances using scale.

Resources Used and Supplementary Materials Available

  1. Aboriginal Education Initiative (1998). Shared Learnings. British Columbia Minister of Education
  2. Pocket Books (1974). The Meriam Webster Dictionary. New York
  3. Greenwood, Margo (1997). The Story of Our Ways: An Okanagan Social Studies Unit. Okanagan Indian Band and School District 22 (Vernon)
  4. Okanagan National Alliance (1998). Okanagan Nation Territory Map. Urban Systems

Contact Numbers

  1. BC Ministry of Education, Aboriginal Education Initiative, Victoria, BC: (250) 356-0872
  2. Okanagan Indian Band Office,Vernon, BC: (250) 542-4328
  3. Okanagan National Alliance, Westbank, BC: (250) 707-0095

Classroom Map Thinksheet

Map Symbols
Tree Symbol Road Symbol Lake Symbol
River Symbol Airport Symbol House Symbol

Classroom Map Thinksheet Assessment

Map Assessment