Developing pupils’ ability to map is a key ingredient in an effective geographical education. Creating opportunities for pupils to represent their understanding spatially is essential.
The Valuing Places project encouraged teachers to give pupils opportunities to produce their own maps in the classroom. The outputs from this activity are often called ‘Think Maps’. They are called think maps because they represent formulations rather than summative spatial understanding. Using maps in this way develops a confidence that maps are a representation and that they are also a spatial thinking tool.
Maps can be an articulation of a pupil’s understanding of that place at that point in their learning. One example of the type of activity is affective mapping.
To support pupils in developing their ability to map, they need to be given opportunities to practice. Pupils are often presented with finished maps in geography lessons. These can demonstrate to pupils the standard that they should aim for.
Published maps can be investigated to reveal what makes a good map. However, pupils need support and opportunities to develop their own cartographic skills. A teacher of English would not expect their pupils to write a novel without first being supported in the abilities needed to attempt to produce one. The same is true for geography teachers and cartography. Think maps represent part of the process in developing pupils’ spatial understanding and their graphical abilities.
Using examples of maps produced by other pupils is a useful approach. Download this example of one pupil’s affective map.
Visit the Young People’s Geographies website for further examples from a ‘Maps of Experience’ project.
Margaret Roberts (2003) describes affective mapping as being the opportunity to ‘plot on maps the feelings that particular places evoke. Feelings are shown by symbols, possibly supplemented with annotation. Where patterns of feelings can be identified on maps then areas can be shaded accordingly’.
Consider a unit of work where affective mapping might enhance pupils’ learning in geography and plan for this to happen. As a follow-up activity you may wish to (re)visit the previous section to consider how valuing children’s geographies can raise standards.