When I was in 9th grade, I had this really old social studies teacher who worked well-past his retirement date. He still used an overhead projector with transparency sheets- ‘nuf said. I don’t remember much about what I learned that year (spoiler alert- this was due to a lack of engagement), but I DO remember coloring maps. We labeled every country in Africa, and then colored the map. We labeled the continents and oceans, and then colored the map. We label ancient civilizations, and then colored the map. We made political, physical, and content-related maps of the United States. And I loved it.
There is something about map coloring that transcends time. Coloring and labeling activities require us to devote our undivided attention to the task. It allows us to explore and implement our creativity. There is a freedom that comes with coloring- you can color outside of the lines and it’s okay! You can take your time and get lost in the process. As adults, we know this because of the adult coloring-book craze. It acts as a stress decompressor for us; why wouldn’t it do that for students? With the continuing push for literacy and critical thinking in everyday instruction (which I fully support!), map coloring provides learning opportunities with a break from the stress. Student skills are reinforced with map-making. They become more knowledgeable in geography, location, directions, and different types of maps. They learn about the world. Map coloring provides a needed reprieve for students and teachers alike, which leads me to my final point- teachers need this learning option too! I know that we aren’t supposed to say this out loud, but gosh darn it, we need days where we can sit back and let the students take ownership of their learning. Map creation lends itself to independent learning and it can be applied to many different social studies topics. Man, how I love map days, and I can honestly say, my students feel the same way that I do.
I have map activities of all kinds- some are free, some are bundled, but ALL are very useful. You can find all of them by clicking here. You can also check out some of my most popular maps below: