Drawing a Bird's Eye View Map

By Aileena Laura Nelson

Subject: Social Studies

Grade: 1st/2nd



1. The students will be able to make their own birds-eye view map correctly.

2. The students will be able to show they know how to put a correct compass rose on their map.

Covers Utah State Core Curriculum in Social Studies for second grade-#6020-0306 and 6020-0308.)


* Children's book: As the Crow Flies (a first book on maps) by Gail Hartman

* Class size (big) maps of world and United States

* The children's desk, an overhead for you and a place to project the overhead picture.

* A small container of a bunch of different objects. I used: a small puff ball, a wooden block, a small wooden stick, a checker, a domino piece, 2 bean shaped color counters, and one real bean, (one for each child.)

* Small white paper for all the children, small block, and then a large piece of paper for each child, and a pencil to draw with.

* Preferred-have all the children's desks facing north, this makes the map making easier.

* Hard boards or books for the children to use as a surface when drawing their maps.


1. Anticipatory Set: Start off by having the children over on the rug. Then ask them how many of them have ever drawn a map? What kind of map was it? What was it for? How many have never drawn a map?

2. Establish the Context/Purpose: Next read the story As the Crow Flies. After each page, or perhaps 2 pages, stop and discuss what it is you have just read. Allow the children to ask you any questions, as you in turn ask them questions. Some possible questions are "Why do you think we need maps?" "If you were making a map, what would you draw on?" Any that you think would be pertinent to what you have read and help them grasp the meaning of maps and map making.

3. Now point out to the children, if they didn't notice, that although the book is supposed to be from a crow's view, that the pictures never really give you a "bird's eye view." Instead they are drawn at different angles. Show them this in the pictures. While it is ok in this book, in order for someone else to look at it and know exactly where to go or what everything is, it would need to be from an actual 'looking down view,' what we are calling a bird's-eye view.

4. (Have all the cups of objects, and 2 pieces of paper passed out and on the students' desks. They should not touch, play or move them.) Explain to them that today they are all going to get the chance to make there very own map from a "bird's eye view."

5. Guided Learning: Now have all the children return to their north facing desks. Have them all get a pencil out and set it on the white paper, so it's not a temptation to play with it. Explain to the children that they are going to be able to make their own maps using all the objects that are in the cup on their desk, (and the cup if they would like.)

6. Pull out the overhead and while projecting it on the wall get one of the cups of 'objects' and pick out the block or cube, the long rectangular stick and one of the colored counting beans.

7. Have all the children take out the same things from their cups. They are to put these 3 objects on their small piece of square paper any way they want, but not touching each other, while you do the same on the overhead.

8. Appropriate Practice: Do this next part with them. With the pieces arranged on the paper explain that we are going to pretend these are what we are going to map. We want to see what they would look like on a map if we drew them, so we are going to take our pencil and trace around the outside of each of them. Then pull off the objects and if the paper was our map, these would be what our buildings (or objects) looked like from above. Add a compass rose to the picture. This is to help the children see and understand that when you see something from above, you are only seeing the top of the object, nothing else, and so that's the way it needs to be drawn on the map. (This is the practice course). When they are done with the picture, have them put the 3 pieces they just used back in their cup.

9. Feedback: Explain now that because map makers can't put a big piece of paper under what they want to map and trace around it as we just did, that they have to get higher to look at their area. Ask them if they have any questions and answer them. They now need to take the big piece of paper, small piece of paper and pencil off their desk.

10. Independent practice: Now they get to take all of their objects and dump (put) them out on their desk. These should be the only things on their desk now. They can arrange the objects any way they want. You might want to suggest not having them on top of each other. Let them arrange the objects. (Give them amply time to do this.)

11. After they have done this explain to them that they now have to get a bird's eye view of what they have done. The way they are going to do this is to stand on their chair (this is the slightly dangerous part). They need to be careful, not bump anyone else's desk and be responsible. Have them put their name on the back of the big piece of paper. Show them that they are going to stand on the chair, look at the objects, and then either get off the chair or use a hard surface and draw it (using the bird's eye view). Show them what the objects should look like by having your objects spread out on the overhead. The projection will show what the paper will look like with the shapes.

12. Make sure that after they have drawn the objects, or before that they all put a correct compass rose on the paper. Check to make sure north is facing in the right direction and that they label all the parts (north, east, south, west).

13. If they finish early you can have them color the objects in. If you have taught about symbols and legends before, they could also do this. If not, they could add more to their picture, like turning the objects into buildings or making a street on it. Let them be creative.

14. Afterwards collect all the materials.


The evaluation is done by watching the children as they are making their maps. Also by looking over and checking their end product. You are looking to see if they placed a correct compass rose on the paper and if they make the objects really in a bird's eye view.

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Check out these cool map web sites:

Free Maps for Traveling

Maps for Teachers and Students

3-D Maps of the World