Maps in Interactive Notebooks

Location, location, location.

It affects not only real estate prices, but influences entire civilizations. I believe that one of the pieces to understanding why or how something happened is to understand where it happened.

That being said, I think that geography for its own sake is boring and somewhat pointless. Bounderies and place names change. What is important about geography is how it shapes a people or an event, so while I teach quite a bit of geography over the year I integrate it in the study of our topic. Generally, I begin each unit with a “lay of the land” and then we refer back to it as it affects the unfolding events.

Below are pictures of some types of geography activities I have students do in the interactive notebooks. The assignments include annotated maps, freehand maps, and basic map assignments. Left hand examples include Cornell notes, question strips, and articles.

Annotated Maps: Students labeled the rivers of the early civilizations, and then wrote three things that made that river/civilization unique directly on the map. This is also a great assignment for battle/trade routes.

annotated-map3        annotate-map2

Freehand map: When a gist of where things are is all that matters, I like to have students draw a freehand map. Here are freehand maps of Italy.

freehand-map11      freehand-map2

freehand-map3-with-question-stripThis is the map with a sample of a left-hand page. The students answered questions about the geography of Italy from their textbook, then we went over it in class with a slideshow that contained lots of visuals and allowed for class discussion. As their ending activity, they created the freehand map.

Basic Map Assignment: A typical ‘find the important places” map activity shown with Cornell notes, another left-hand strategy.


Basic Map Assignment: Label the Niger River, the geographical zones, and salt, gold, and iron deposits with article notes.

africa-with-notes31           africa-with-notes2

Something new I’m trying are maps as left-hand pages:


In this assignment, students had to show the different kingdoms of West Africa, along with resources and trade routes. Then they turned the information about when the kingdoms began and ended into a timeline on the right.

2 comments so far

  1. Stephanie Schrull on

    I am getting information together in hopes to encourage implementation of interactive notebooks in freshman geography classes in at my high school. Our geography dept. is great but new ideas are sometimes intimidating to teachers. I really like your ideas on this site. Any ideas on specific activities that work well in geography is greatly appreciated!

  2. Brandon on

    I love this I teach 7th grade Geography of the Eastern Hemisphere and I am constantly trying to think of how do I unboring maps.

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