Lesson plan

My School Atlas

Put your school on the map! Students will have fun creating an atlas of their very own school that includes maps and reference details.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will design one page of a school atlas, which includes a map of their classroom and a description of what happens in that space.

(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will be working together to create a school atlas today.
  • Ask students to share what they know about atlases. If no one suggests this, tell them that an atlas is a book of maps.
  • Tell students that there are many different kinds of maps, so there are many different kinds of atlases. Introduce some of the atlases you have collected by reading the titles and showing them to the students.
  • Ask for and give examples of the different kinds of maps: road maps, astronomical maps, population maps, weather maps, and so on.
  • Tell students that in addition to the maps, atlases also contain supporting information. Show an example from an atlas. (For example, an atlas of the United States might include text that describes the food grown in each state.)
  • Tell students that the school atlas they will be designing will include maps and supporting information for some of the classrooms and offices at their school.
  • Tell students that they will be assigned a classroom or office for the school atlas. They will draw a map of their assigned room, then write an essay about what happens in that room. (Depending on your school, examples of rooms include classrooms, library, cafeteria, gym, art room, computer room, and the principal's office.)
(10 minutes)
  • Using a projector or document camera, project one map from an atlas onto the board.
  • Read the title of the map. Remind students that the title tells what the map is about.
  • Point to the key. Tell students that the key is a small box on the map that contains the symbols used on the map. Explain that symbols are the colors, pictures, or shapes that represent real objects.
  • Find the compass rose. Remind students that a compass rose shows direction and that, on most maps, north is depicted pointing up.
  • Point to the scale and tell students that the scale shows the relationship between the real distance (or real size) and the distance on the map.
  • Project a page of the atlas that has text associated with a map. Model skimming the information to determine what the text is describing. Repeat with another section of the atlas, showing the map and the corresponding text.
  • Think aloud about the classroom. What happens here? Who uses the classroom? Write notes on the board.
  • Tell students you are taking notes to prepare to write your informative essay. Remind students that you are only including facts because an informative essay does not include any opinions; it is fact-based.
  • Think aloud about the classroom again. What items should be included on a map of the classroom? Include doors, desks, and bookshelves because they are big and somewhat permanent. Exclude pencils, books, and students because they are smaller and aren't fixed in one place.
  • Show the students the chart paper with the outline of your classroom. Begin mapping your classroom by drawing little rectangles as a symbol for desks or tables. Make note of the symbol to add to the key.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students you need their help to complete the classroom map. What else should be included on the map? What symbol should be used?
  • Invite volunteers to come up to the chart paper and draw in these additions.
  • Continue until all objects have been added to the map.
  • Remind students about the map elements they found in their atlas earlier and ask them what else needs to be added to their map.
  • Instruct a volunteer to create the key with all the symbols used. They can ask for support or help from other students.
  • Prompt another volunteer to write a title at the top of the chart paper. They can solicit ideas from other students.
  • Ask another volunteer to draw the compass rose. You may need to tell students which way is north.
  • Choose two volunteers to measure the length and width of the classroom using a ruler. (Tip: One student can move the ruler, while the second student can use a finger as a placeholder.)
  • Remind students that the scale is created by dividing the actual length of the classroom by the length of the rectangle.
  • Show the students the calculation on the whiteboard, rounding up or down if necessary. For example, if the classroom is 20 feet long (240 inches) and the length of the rectangle on the chart paper is 30 inches, then the scale is 1:8, which means that 1 inch on the map represents 8 inches in the classroom.
  • Have a student draw a scale on the map.
(40 minutes)
  • Assign a room to a group of three students. Tell the students that they will have 20 minutes to visit the room, measure it, and draw the map. They should work together to draw the map. (Tip: Suggest that one student draws, one student measures, and one student decides on symbols.)
  • Tell students that their maps should include:
    • a title
    • a key with symbols
    • a compass rose
    • a scale
  • Remind students of behavior expectations during this task.
  • Instruct students to take paper, pencil, ruler, and a clipboard, if available.
  • Tell students to walk quietly to their assigned room.
  • Follow any students that may need help getting started.
  • Circulate through the assigned rooms and check on students. Offer help if needed.
  • After 15 minutes, remind students that they have 5 minutes left to finish their maps.
  • When all students have returned, answer any questions they have.
  • Tell students that they now have 15 minutes to write a detailed paragraph about their room. Although groups can work together and help each other, every student should write one paragraph. Look back at the notes written on the board during Explicit Instruction and tell students that they should include information about who uses the room, for what reasons, how it's used, and so on.
  • Remind students that this is an informative paragraph containing information, not personal opinions.
  • Encourage students to use as much detail as possible.
  • While students are writing, walk around and check their maps. Notice if students have omitted any map elements.


  • Allow struggling writers to create a list instead of an informative paragraph.
  • Allow students to use an atlas for examples of informative text.


  • Challenge students by asking them to create a map of two rooms for the atlas.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute the Map of U.S. Rivers worksheet to each student. Tell students to ignore the directions at the top of the page and just pay attention to the blank map. Instruct students to fill in all the missing map elements.
  • Circulate and assess students' understanding of map elements by checking their maps.
(5 minutes)
  • Gather the students together and tell them that after you read their work, you will put all their maps and informational text into a big book called an ...? (Answer: atlas)
  • Tell students that this atlas needs a title. Ask students to brainstorm some titles for the atlas.
  • Record suggestions on the board.
  • Allow students to vote on the best title for the atlas.

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