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The use of maps in a game format provides review and reinforcement of map reading skills. These games have been created by Dr. Joe Kirman, Webmaster of the Canadian Social Studies Super Site, for your use. These games are under copyright but may be copied for non-commercial classroom and personal use. Commercial use requires permission and a license from the Webmaster. These games can be used from elementary through the lower secondary levels. They add a measure of enjoyment and recreation to geography instruction. 


Game 1 - MAP EXPLORATION (Grade level: 4 and up)


GAME 3 - URBAN MAP TAG (Grade level: 3 and up)




This game has four objectives: teaching geographical locations, using map symbols, applying the concept of scale, and developing map-reading skills. Teachers may use the game in any unit in which maps are used.

Grade level: 4 and up


Materials for the game are easily obtained and made. They include

            1.         a map of sufficient size to enable six students to cluster around it

(e.g., a highway map);

            2.         a set of fifty cards, each naming a different map feature or place; and

            3.         a cardboard marker for each player.

Number markers in consecutive order. The numbers indicate the sequence of playing turns. Make the base length of markers correspond to the map scale. Markers should stand upright on the map (see figure 12-1).





Rules for playing the game are as follows:

            1.         Each of the six players draws a marker out of a paper bag.

            2.         Each player draws five cards from the face-down deck.

            3.         The game begins when players place the folded edge of their markers at the center of the map. (An alternative starting point, such as a major city, may be selected.)

            4.         Players move their markers, turn by turn, to all places listed on the cards.

            5.         Players are limited to a maximum distance per move as specified by the teacher in advance. The distance selected is influenced by the scale of the map.

            6.         The players are allowed to move in any direction.

            7.         The first player to reach all five places and return to the starting point wins the game. If more than one player returns to the starting point during a single sequence of turns, the game is declared a draw. This rule eliminates the advantage players who draw lower marker numbers have.


The game lends itself to the incorporation of several variations. For example, different types of maps may be used, including Landsat images with selected features identified on an acetate overlay.

Rather than receiving cards, each child can select a number of places such as cities, airports, or campgrounds, each of which has been given a point value by the teacher. The first child to score fifty points is declared the winner. Interest can be added to the game by giving players a set of mini-markers (e.g., popcorn kernels) to put on places they have reached, thereby precluding the further use of marked places for scoring by other students. In this option, each player keeps a list of places reached and points scored. Each player, however, should start at a different place to avoid giving undue advantage to those having the first moves.

Another option is to add a second deck of cards with penalties for delays imposed by conditions common to the area (e.g., poor weather, flood, road construction, heavy traffic) or rewards for moving an extra turn or going directly to the next place. Cards may be drawn with each turn.

Yet another option is to include cards of compass directions. These cards require players to move in a specified direction or lose a turn.

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Teaching about latitude and longitude is a standard element in all elementary social studies curricula. Once taught, it can be quickly forgotten unless it is reviewed and reinforced. One way of doing this is to use it in a geography game that can be played as soon as the children are able to plot latitude-longitude coordinates. “Latitude, Longitude—Spell It” is a group game that does just that. All that is needed for the basic game are a class set of coordinate cards and enough maps for each group.

Grade Level: 4 and up


            1.         Divide the class into teams of three or four pupils. (Beyond this number, group interaction is reduced.)

            2.         Each team receives the same map and three to five different latitude-longitude coordinate cards for locations on that map.

            3.         There are two options. In Option A, the team finds the coordinates of each card on their map and records the names of all cities and towns found within a given radius of each coordinate. In Option B, the team locates the closest city or town to the coordinates.

            4.         Using the letters found in the names of those cities and towns, the team arranges them to spell other cities and towns on the map.

            5.         The latitude and longitude of each of these cities and towns are then plotted by the team. Each correct coordinate scores one point for the team.

            6.         A team representative then lists the names of the cities and towns with their coordinates on the board. The other teams have the right to challenge the accuracy of the coordinates and the spelling of the cities and towns. The challenging team receives one point for each successful challenge that is deducted from the score of the other team. An unsuccessful challenge results in a point deducted from the challenging team and awarded to the other team. The team with the highest score wins.

Picking a Winner

In games such as this, there is usually only one winner. By chance, in Option A, some teams may have greater numbers of letters to work with if their coordinate cards have densely settled locations, or in Option B, some teams may have town names with lots of letters. This may be considered an unfair advantage by some of the children even if the cards were distributed in a random manner. To avoid this, and to help keep class morale high, every team that scores a minimum number, such as five new locations, should be considered a winner. The team having the greatest number can be the “top winner.” It is also a good idea to distribute the coordinate cards in a manner that will allow every team to be a winner.

The Map

A map with one degree increments of latitude and longitude is best if the class is learning about minute divisions. You will either have to add the minute divisions or teach the children to estimate them. You can provide divisions of latitude and longitude and extend the lines across the map by either drawing the lines on the map or drawing them on a clear acetate overlay that can be Xeroxed for the class. Minute divisions can be marked in the margins in increments of 15’ to avoid cluttering the map with too many lines. If acetate overlays are used, it is possible to mark all the coordinate card intersections of latitude and longitude on the acetates. The younger children can then find which coordinate points correspond to the ones on their cards with a measure of accuracy. When using overlays, make sure that there are well-defined alignment marks on them and a supply of paper clips to hold the acetates in place. These overlays are useful when the class is working with atlases and geography book maps that cannot be drawn on.

If Option A, using the names of the cities and towns within a given radius, is selected the children can find the radius of the coordinates with a ruler or a pre-measured length of string. Some children, especially the younger ones, can be given a small acetate sheet having a teacher-made, pre-measured radius circle with a dot in it. The children place the dot on the coordinates’ intersection and look for the cities and towns in the circle. The scale of the map and the quantity of cities and towns noted on it will determine the length of the radius. Option B, using only the names of the town or city closest to the coordinate, avoids this step.

Coordinate Cards

A sample coordinate card would merely have the latitude and longitude noted on it:

            Latitude 51°N

            Longitude 113°W

With the coordinates, either Option B of using the letters in the town’s name to make up other names on the map, or Option A using all letters in locations within a radius of the coordinates can be selected. If the radius option is used, one card (depending on the density of locations noted on the map) may be sufficient for each team. If the option of only using the town and city names located by the coordinate cards is used, three or more cards may be given to each team.

In preparing the coordinate cards you can add bonus cards that give each team extra letters, or give all teams the same extra letters by writing them on the board.

The children may use each letter as many times as they wish to find new locations. A restriction can be placed on the use of each letter, for example, three times, to limit the number of new locations. This letter restriction can be an item for a challenge in which a team uses a letter more times than is permitted. The length of the game can be controlled by the letter restrictions and the number of latitude-longitude coordinate cards distributed to the teams.

A Sample of Team Cards

In this case Option B of using the names of cities and towns located near the coordinates has been selected. Each team receives three cards and is told to find the closest city or town to the coordinates. The teams will use the letters in these names to spell other locations on the map, and to determine the latitude and longitude of the new locations. There are no restrictions on how many times a letter may be used.

Three cards, each with a coordinate, are distributed to the teams. One team receives the following coordinates:

            Latitude 51°N

            Longitude 113°W

            Latitude 53°30’N

            Longitude 113°30’W

            Latitude 53°N

            Longitude 111°45’W

First, the team finds the location on the coordinate cards. Second, they rearrange the letters of these locations to spell other locations on the map. Third, they find the latitude and longitude of the new locations. Fourth, they report to the class by writing the new locations and their coordinates on the board and receive challenges from the other teams.

The above are the approximate locations of Standard, Edmonton, and Viking, Alberta. Using the letters in these names, the team can arrange them to spell the following towns and cities found on a map of Alberta: Irma, Marsden, Amisk, Marengo, Ardossan, Gem, Red Deer, Morrin, Mirro. The team receives a point for each location with correct coordinates of latitude and longitude. (In this case a map of Alberta was used, but you can use any map.)

Ability Levels

Depending on the class level and pupil ability, you may wish to allow some leeway in the coordinates of the locations reported by the children. For example, where a location is not found directly on a meridian of longitude or parallel of latitude, where an error would be very noticeable, an error of plus or minus 5’ latitude or longitude could be acceptable.

When grouping the children for teams, you can place slower children together and give them cards with less difficult coordinates to find, and perhaps bonus letters. Teams made up of brighter children can receive cards that provide a greater challenge for them.

Time Element

Although the teams are in a competitive game, you should resist any temptation to turn it into a race against time or a first team to finish-last team to finish situation. In a skill performance, such as this game, it can only lead to mistakes and frustration. The objective is to have the children do the best they are capable of and concentrate on what they are doing rather than the time or the other teams.

In planning for how much time to allot to the game, a rule of thumb is that the younger the class, the more time will be needed. For example, fourth graders should have at least five minutes per coordinate card, and at least 30 minutes to rearrange letters and find the new coordinates. Also, the first time children play a game, it usually takes longer than when they are familiar with its rules.

In some cases rather than using a fixed time for each segment of the game, you can move from team to team and observe what each has accomplished to determine if more time is needed. The game can also be stopped and continued at another period either before the letters are rearranged for new locations, before the new coordinates are found, or before the teams write their findings on the board. This procedure also reduces the block of time needed to play the game.


The game can be used for an interesting homework activity if the pupils individually do the letter rearranging and determine the new coordinates at home. The next day the teams can meet to compile their lists and write them on the board for the challenge.

If the homework option is used, all children will need a map. This can be done with a map in their textbook or with a class set of atlases. An alternative is the use of a class set of travel maps such as those provided by government agencies, travel agents, or motor associations. However, such maps can be quite large in size, and maps larger than 8” by 10” do not lend themselves to use with acetate overlays. You can use a segment of such a map. It may also be possible to obtain duplication permission from the map’s copyright owner and duplicate copies for each child.

Pedagogy Notes

Once the unit on latitude and longitude is completed and the children have demonstrated their ability to find coordinates, and they understand what this means for map use, it is imperative that when maps are used latitude and longitude be included for review and reinforcement purposes. Current events discussions, for example, can be accompanied by map use and the latitude and longitude coordinates found for the item under discussion. This element of on-going review and reinforcement should be done with all map skills, but especially so at the elementary level. This easy-to-make game will be of some help to begin the review and reinforcement of latitude and longitude and will provide a measure of enjoyment for the children.


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This is an easily constructed game designed to encourage familiarization with specific street maps and to reinforce the understanding of compass directions. It also encourages children to find locations on a map, to determine the most efficient routes to a destination, to think spatially and to identify places. These latter two items are part of the six essential elements of geography noted in Geography for Life, National Geographic Standards 1994. The game can be used in geography and social studies units dealing with neighborhoods, communities, and cities, and wherever large scale urban street maps are used. Children who have played this game have also found it to be an enjoyable recreational activity.

Grade Level: 3 and up

Number of players: two to four

Contents: Street map with cardinal points of the compass marked on it (use only a large scale map or one enlarged to a larger scale), 23 movement cards, popcorn kernel place markers (one for each player). With older children the map can be mounted on corkboard and map pins used for place markers.

Objective: To get a specific location on the map without being tagged.


The teacher determines a location objective for players on the map. It can be either a landmark such as the school or an arbitrarily selected street location on the center or at one end of the map.

Players determine among themselves who will assume the role of tagger and the order of turn by die, spinner, finger choosing etc.

The tagger, who must go last, is positioned at the location objective.

Other players are positioned at the edge of the map, or edge of the playing zone if the entire map is not being used for the game. All should be approximately equidistant from the location objective.

Number of Moves Per Turn

All players including the tagger can choose to move up to three blocks per turn to get to the location objective.

Movement Cards

All players except the tagger must take a movement card at each turn and follow the directions (noted below) on that card. The card should be returned to the bottom of the deck after use.

Getting Tagged

The tagger moves toward a player. When the tagger reaches the same block as a player, that player is temporarily out of the game. The player’s marker is removed from the board. On the next move the tagger can move toward another player or move directly to the location objective and begin from there to go after another player.

Returning to the Game

A tagged player can return to the game if any player, including the tagger, reaches or passes through the tagged player’s starting point. The player then returns to the starting point and moves in order of his or her original turn.

If any player reaches the location objective without getting tagged, any remaining tagged players begin again from their original starting points. They then move in order of their original turns.

The Anti-Tagger

A player reaching the location objective becomes an anti-tagger player. An anti-tagger cannot be tagged and protects the other players by trying to block the path of the tagger. The tagger cannot pass an anti-tagger on a block, but must move to another street. Other players can pass the anti-tagger. An anti-tagger can choose to move one to three streets per move starting from the location objective. The anti-tagger does not have to pick a movement card and is free to move in any direction.

How the Game Ends

The game ends when all players reach the goal and become anti-taggers, or when remaining players are tagged.

Movement Cards’ Content

           Eight cards with compass directions: two cards for each of the four cardinal compass directions, with the following wording, Move North (Move In Any Direction If Blocked); Move East (Move In Any Direction If Blocked), etc.

            Note: Blocking can occur at the edge of the board (e.g., player is at the north edge of the board) or if there is no way to go in the required direction. If streets are laid out other than in cardinal directions, then use the compass grid pattern of the map for the movement cards. Where streets do not exactly conform to compass directions, the player should move in the direction closest to the direction noted on the movement card.

           Two cards: Do Not Move

           12 cards: Move In Any Direction

           One Card of a specific location three moves away from the location objective, for example, Go Directly To 147 St and 96 Ave. The game can be speeded up and weighted against the tagger by the addition of two or three additional

Go Directly To cards with other locations near the objective.

Cards should be properly shuffled.

Game Variations

This game was originally piloted using a street map that had 19 streets running north-south, and 25 streets running east-west. The number of streets per move can be increased for maps with a larger number of streets or to speed up the playing time.

Where maps of large cities are used, (Toronto, New York, Paris, Tokyo, etc.) players may optionally use urban mass transit routes if they are noted on the map. Thus with a three-block move procedure, one block move might get the player to a bus, train, or light rail system passenger stop. The second block move takes the player to any other passenger stop on the route, and the third block move is another street toward the location objective.

With large area maps, there can be more players, and more than one location objective. There should be a tagger for each additional location objective. More than two location objectives with six players and two taggers may slow down the order of turns and affect the attention span of players.

A more complex map tag variation with large area maps is to have one tagger and multiple location objectives for example, museums, civic buildings, parks, zoos, and other places of interest. The players have to get to all location objectives and receive a token for reaching each location. If tagged, a player turns the tokens over to the tagger who continues as a player. The tagged player now becomes the tagger who must start at one of the location objectives. With this variation there are no anti-taggers and no one is bumped from the board. A player with tokens from all location objectives is a winner, and the game can optionally continue until only the tagger is left.

Vocabulary Words

Words used in this game that may be new to younger children are: objective, location, position, goal, movement, previous, directly, blocked.


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