In this online activity, students use Google Maps to pinpoint their home address and get directions to and from school.
community, geography, home, school
By first and second grade, most students should know their home address. Meanwhile, in language arts, teachers are focusing on descriptive writing, including the use of details. This lesson both motivates students to know their home address for safety purposes and improves their writing skills as they describe how to get to school from their house.
Google Maps provides a fast and easy way to display locations in the United States. In many areas, you even can see a satellite photo that zooms in to your own rooftop! Before beginning this lesson, go to Google Maps and enter your own home or school address to see what's available for your area.
This lesson is best taught when each student has access to a computer at the same time -- in a lab, with a cart of computers, and so on -- but, you can adapt it for a classroom with one or more computers in a computer center. You also need a way to display one computer on a projector or TV monitor.
Explain to students that they are going to go on the computer and see a map of where they live. They might even get to see their own house! Open Google Maps, type your school's address into the search blank, and then click Search. Show students the map that appears, then click Satellite (remember to check beforehand that pictures of your area are available) to see an aerial shot of your campus. Click the plus sign on the left several times to see a close-up of the school. Ask students to identify the buildings on your campus.
Next, click the Get Directions button at the top of the screen. Your school address is now in a blank called Ending Directions. Decide beforehand where you'd like to the directions to start from. It should be a place well known to your students -- the zoo, the mall, the skating rink, and so on. Type that address in the starting address and click Search. You'll see (on the Satellite view) a line connecting the two locations. Click Map to see the roads, with written directions on the left. Here's where the descriptive writing comes in!
Ask students how they would write the directions in this paragraph: To get to our school from _____________________________________________, you
Write their suggestions on a whiteboard or on your computer until the paragraph provides complete directions to school from the chosen location. Sometimes the directions provided online are not 100 percent accurate. Depending on the inaccuracies and the age of your students, you can choose to ignore the errors or correct them.
Finally it's time for students to get online! Provide them with the following directions:
Author's note: This lesson was inspired by an activity completed in Stacey Hansom's second grade classroom at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tennessee.