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Map drill is an easy and effective way to learn where major cities and countries are located around the world. This knowledge is becoming increasingly more important and relevant as our world seems to shrink every day and current events and news are relayed to us faster and faster. Here’s a look at why you should conduct map drill and how to fit it into your homeschool in just ten minutes a week, plus six ways to add variety to map drill.
Why should you conduct map drill?
Our world seems to shrink every day. We hear about events happening around the world almost as soon as they happen. It is important for us to know where major cities and countries are located so we can find them on a map and keep up with current events.
It is also important for us to know these locations from a historical perspective. Many major cities have a long and colorful history that is still affecting our political and social world today.
How often should you conduct map drill?
The frequency of map drill varies by family. At the minimum, you should have one map drill session per week. This is what we generally do, unless we add in some extra sessions through geography games. Other families have a five-minute map drill session three to five times a week. Regardless of how often your child practices map drill, the session should be short—no more than five to ten minutes.
When should you begin map drill?
Because maps are an abstract concept, I wait to begin map drill formally until about third grade, and then I begin with the continents and oceans. Before that time, I allowed my daughter to follow along with her older sister if she desired but I did not require it. And, we located places on a map as they came up in a conversation or book. Puzzles and games are also a good introduction to map drill for younger children.
What should you study for map drill?
Begin by learning the continents of the world. This is often an important piece of information in conversations. Knowing the major continents will help your child have a context for a conversation or book he is reading.
Next, start learning about your own state. Learn the major cities, rivers, lakes, and any other important information. Learn what states border your state. Then learn the states in your region. Once he has learned these, study other regions in the U.S. until he knows all of the states, major rivers, and mountain ranges in the United States. Continue expanding his horizons as he studies North America and then other continents around the world.
How to conduct map drill
There is not one right way to conduct map drill. Using different techniques adds variety and keeps interest high for your student. The goal is for him to learn the locations of major cities, countries, rivers, mountains, large lakes, and oceans around the world.
Puzzles and Games
Puzzles and games are a great way to start learning locations for children and adults of all ages. Every time we play a game, we all learn a new location or fact about an area.
These can be played during lesson time, during free time, or for a family game night. There are many options for games available. Choosing ones that complement the area you are studying will reinforce the hard work your child is doing during lessons.
Fill in blank maps
Print out a blank map of the area your child will study. Also, print out a map with the names of cities, countries, rivers, mountains, oceans, and anything else you want him to learn included. Or, you could print a second blank map and write in the locations yourself. (I use the Uncle Josh’s Outline Maps. Free options include Outline Maps or D-Maps.)
Instruct your child to write a few country names or other features on the blank map. The next week, give him another blank map and instruct him to write in what he already learned and add a few more. Repeat this each week until he has learned the entire region.
Another option is to laminate a blank map and allow him to write in the names with a dry erase marker. If it is appropriate, he could also use abbreviations. When my daughter was learning the states in the USA, it was difficult for her to write small enough to fit the state name on the map. Since it is helpful to know the state abbreviations too, she wrote the abbreviation instead of the state name.
Younger children who are following along or children with difficulties writing can color in various regions instead of writing the name. They can color directly on the blank map or you could laminate a blank map and allow them to use a dry erase marker.
Map drill labels
My goal with map drill is not for my children to learn how to spell every location correctly, but to recognize the shape of the state or country and its location. Sometimes the spelling can become a stumbling block and impede progress in learning the locations. To overcome this, we often use map drill labels instead of writing out location names. This is also helpful if you have a younger child wanting to join an older sibling during map drill time.
Trace a map of the region
Map tracing forces you to pay close attention to the region you are tracing. Your child will not only learn the locations of the states or countries, but will also learn their shapes which will help him identify the location on a map or be able to draw them. This is also a great activity for children to do independently during lesson time while waiting for your assistance. Learn how to trace a map by reading the tutorial or watching the video.
Make your own map using a transfer technique
Before explorers and map makers had easy access to a printing press, they made copies of maps using a transfer technique. This method of map tracing is fun and brings in a little history as well. This should not be the primary method of map drill, but provides variety and requires attention to detail. Learn how to use this transfer technique by reading the tutorial or watching the video.
Draw your own maps
This is the most advanced version of map drill. You could begin by drawing one state or country and adding another one each week.
This post has been linked to Hands-on Homeschool Ideas