Parts of a Map Lesson for Kids - Video & Lesson Transcript |

Parts of a Map Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:03 Map Features
  • 0:42 Parts of a Map
  • 3:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Lindsey Hays

Lindsey has taught Elementary Education, Spanish immersion, and ESL. She has a MS in Elementary Education with a BA in Spanish.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Maps use important features to help represent real-life areas in a more manageable way. In this lesson, we'll look at the parts of a map and how they can help us to better understand the land maps represent.

Map Features

If you're going on a trip to another state, what do you need - a map of the world, the United States, or your town? If you wanted to learn about continents in the world, which map would you use? Maps have many purposes, but not all maps can be used for the same reason.

Cartographers, people who make maps, keep this in mind when creating maps. They decide what the map will cover and who the map will be used by. They also include map features to guide people to the information they need, whether that's directions or names of continents. Let's look at the parts of a map and their functions.

Parts of a Map


Each map has a title that tells what the map represents. For example, a map of the United States might simply be titled 'The United States of America.' Titles give us an idea of what we're looking at and what we may use the map for.

Compass Rose

Next, maps usually include a compass rose. A compass rose is a cross-like figure that shows direction. Compass roses display the four cardinal directions - north, east, south, and west - as well as the ordinal directions: northeast, southeast, northwest, southwest. A clever way to remember the order of the cardinal directions is with the mnemonic 'Never Eat Soggy Waffles' for north, east, south, and west.

Map Key

Most kinds of maps have symbols and colors that represent certain things. In such cases, they typically have map keys, also called legends, which are boxes that tell you what the symbols mean. For instance, colors on a map can represent mountains, plains, plateaus, rivers, and lakes. On other maps, symbols might represent capitals, roads, railroads, and boundaries between states and cities.

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Additional Activities

Prompts About Map Parts:

Writing Prompt:

In about three to four sentences, answer the following question: What does a cartographer do?

Example: First define that a cartographer is someone who makes maps.

Study Prompt:

Make a set of flashcards that define each part of a map. There are seven map parts in the lesson (title, compass rose, map key, map scale, inset map, longitude, and latitude).

Example: The flashcard for longitude could state that longitude lines are vertical, and you could even draw a vertical line to help you learn it visually!

Illustration Prompt:

Draw a compass rose, and make sure it shows the cardinal directions and the ordinal directions.

Tip: To help you remember the order of the cardinal directions, you could write the mnemonic given in the lesson at the top of your paper, "Never Eat Soggy Waffles."

List Prompt:

Look at a map in your classroom or in your home. Make a list of ten symbols you see represented on the map key. You can draw the symbol and then write next to it what it represents. Remember, a map key is sometimes also called a legend, so the map that you are looking at may say, "map key," or it may say, "legend."

Example: You notice on your map that stars represent state capitals. On your list, draw a star, then write, "capital" next to it.

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