Using MaxiMaps in Primary Schools

School of Education

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of Oxford Brookes University

Ideas for using the giant World floor map with primary children

Simon Catling



The essence of using these ideas is that the children go and stand on the giant World floor map. It is not a delicate object to be treated with over-sensitively, though it needs care! It is made to be walked and crawled over, to stand and kneel on, as well as to stand round the edge, look at and talk about!

These teaching ideas are intended to provide ways for children to use the World map interactively, to be fun but also with the serious purpose of introducing them to the features and places of the World, physical and political. They should learn about the major physical features of the Earth and where these and countries and major cities are. But it is about more than location. There is also the opportunity to draw out what the children know and to extend this through links to topical events, whether advertised places for holidays, ocean liner routes, natural disasters, major sporting and other events, or the places they would like to visit.

Using the giant World map from the youngest age ranges throughout the primary school, the key aims are:

  • To help children become familiar with the key physical features of the Earth, its continents and oceans
  • To develop their knowledge of the features of the Earth, such as the major mountain areas and ranges, rivers, seas, lakes, deserts and islands
  • To develop their knowledge of the human features and places in the World, such as countries, major cities, world heritage sites, etc.
  • To help children show each other and their teacher what they know and learn about the Earth
  • To enable children to extend their knowledge of features and places in the World through the tasks they are asked to do or create themselves to share with each other
  • To have fun using a map of the World, as a way of motivating and stimulating children to learn about their planet.

Key accessories to use with the giant World floor map are a soft or inflatable globe (and/or a solid globe on a stand) and an atlas. The nature and complexity of detail on the globe and atlas will depend on the age and experience of the children, but it is always worth having a more detailed atlas available for those places which children mention but which do not appear on early years and primary atlases. It can also be helpful, for extension activities, to have laminated table-top size maps or poster wall maps of the World available in the classroom.

The teaching activities in this leaflet state the purpose of the activity and how to undertake it. They are not given in any particular order, but offered as ideas to be selected from and used with the giant World floor map.

You will notice that in most, if not all, of the activities that children will learn about more than just “what is where”. Some activities relate to the idea of travel, others to what features and places mean to them, and others to topics to investigate and/or appreciate. More often these occur in extension activities where the children discuss their learning and understanding or develop their knowledge and understanding of an aspect of their or the World which gives the locational and feature/place knowledge context.

A key opportunity to take when using the giant World floor map is to enhance children’s language capability. Simply the naming of the various elements and parts of the Earth extends children’s vocabulary both through the use of particular names for oceans and continents, countries and cities, rivers and mountains, and lakes and deserts, and through the use of language to discuss how the Earth is represented on the map and the meanings and varieties of such terms as boundaries, country, river, lake, sea and city and the associated descriptions and examples of such places and features. Whether you use your own or use the images area on Google, for instance, it is invaluable to find and show children photographs of the places they identify, find and discuss. Use a laptop computer with the map, inside or outdoors, to bring up these images. It will enhance the children’s experience through seeing the features and places they refer to, and foster their language through the discussion of what they see in the images of the places and features they find on the map.

While specific ideas follow, they can all be modified for different age groups of children and in relation to their previous experience. They can also be adapted to be used on poster size maps, wall maps laid out non tables or the floor or on table size World maps. They are included in no particular order. Read them through and use those that appeal to you, as they are described or as you might adapt them.

Quite a number of these ideas can be adapted to use with the giant British Isles map, with a little imagination and creativity. This is noted at the end of a teaching activity where this may be relevant to do so …

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