Map Maker


Through this activity, students create a map of a text’s physical setting.  This activity helps them to develop, refine, and visualize the physical space in which a story is occurring.  


Catherine Ullman-Shade

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Visualizing
Setting Analysis

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers
  • Writing from Sources


  • Consider gathering some examples of different styles of maps, including ones that depict significant events where they occur and ones that depict the settings of texts.
  • Identify the text you want students to focus on.
  • Consider creating a few example maps as additional models. 


Activity Steps 
  1. Students read the target text.
    This step can also be completed at home or in the days preceding the activity.
    This activity can be slightly altered as a writing support, in which students draw a map of the setting of a story they are writing themselves. 
  2. In pairs or individually, students brainstorm the most important places from the text and make a list.

    Students brainstorm the most important events from the text, and identify the places in which they occur.  This is best done in a two-sided chart with one side labeled “place/setting” and the other “key events.”  During this time, you can circulate and confer with students, probing their thinking about the text and suggesting ideas they may not have thought of. 

  3. Students look through the text for descriptions and clues about what the places look like, and how they are oriented relative to one another.
    You may want to model how clues from the text can give information about the appearance and orientation of places. 
    Students should also know that when the text does not provide sufficient information, they should make logical inferences about what places look like, and how they are oriented.  You may consider letting them use research tools to get information about the appearance and orientation of places.
  4. In pairs or individually, students create a map of the text.

    The map must include the major places, and may include the major events that happen at each place.

    Students should be encouraged to be creative in their mapmaking efforts.  Let them know that there are many different strategies for encoding information on a map. 

  5. Students share their work in groups, in front of the class, or through a gallery walk.

    Students may benefit from structured sentence stems or other guidance in how to respond to their classmates’ work.

  6. Students reflect on their learning in writing or in conversation.
    Students respond to questions such as:
    • How did this activity affect your understanding of the setting of the story?
    • How does the physical place of the story affect the plot?  How does it affect the meaning and interpretation of the story?
    • What is another context in which a mapmaking activity might be a helpful learning strategy?
Downloadable Resources 
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