Putting the World in Perspective

Lesson Plan, Grades 3 and up

Penelope Madison Manchester Elementary-Middle School

Introduction: In this lesson, students create and interpret a mental map of the world's continents within a problem-solving environment.

Objectives: The students will work in small groups to:

(1) make a mental map of the world by tearing paper shapes of the seven continents and locating them on a flat surface in their relative positions,

(2) compare their finished mental map to a reference world map, and

(3) repeat the exercise several times throughout the year to see their change and growth.

Geographic Theme: Location

National Geography Standard: Number 2 (use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context)

State Geography Standard: State standard number 6.7.b (demonstrate mental mapping skills)

Time: approximately 1.5  hours


(1) blue and green krait paper, about two yards of each for each group of students

(2) glue sticks

(3) globe or world map

(4) colored pencils, or markers, or crayons 

(5) camera and film

(6) string (for doing the extended lesson)


(I) Divide students into groups of three.

(2) Provide each group with kraft paper and glue sticks.

(3) Assign a large space for each group to work (a cafeteria area works well).

(4) Have each group tear the shapes of the continents out of their green paper, and then put them on the blue paper in their relative positions. Once the group has decided where the torn pieces should go, have them glue them down. The students must be able to name anything they place on their map. Nom: Students may NOT use any reference maps, and the teacher does not get involved.

(5) Have the students put a compass rose on their map with the colored pencils, markers, or crayons in one of the blue ocean areas. If you have not introduced the concept of compass roses previously in class, show the students several samples and explain their purpose.

(6) Call on groups to show their world map. Point to selected areas for students to name.

(7) Compare the mental map to a world reference map or globe, and discuss the differences in location and size.

(8) Take a photo of each group with their map. Save the maps for later comparisons.

(9) Repeat this activity during the year using the same groups. Compare each group's new map to their old to see their growth.

Extension: Use string on the tom paper maps to show major longitude and latitude lines, such as the Prime Meridian, the International Date Line, the Equator, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. Glue or staple the string into place.



At the end of the year. have each student make their own map on smaller pieces of paper. Evaluate for accuracy and improvement.

Thanks to Penny Madison's fifth graders (from left) Jennifer Katz, Aubrey Edson, James Pecor, and Shaun Mitchell for permission to print their map and photos. Penny would also like to acknowledge the Oklahoma Geographic Alliance for the idea of using torn paper to make maps.