Latitude and Longitude

LESSON PLAN: Types of Maps
LEVEL: Advanced
Related topics: latitude and longitude, continents
The activities in this lesson help students understand the kinds of information shown on different types of maps.
They will examine physical, political, and thematic maps to find out how these maps can be used individually or
together to provide information about a place.
World Political Map (Home>>World>>Maps for the World>>World Political Map: Advanced)
World Physical Map (Home>>World>>Maps for the World>>World Physical Map: Advanced)
World Climate Map (Home>>World>>Maps for the World>>World Climate Map: Advanced)
World Vegetation Map (Home>>World>>Maps for the World>>World Vegetation Map: Advanced)
World Population Density Map (Home>>World>>Maps for the World>>World Population Density Map:
World Environments Map (Home>>World>>Maps for the World>>World Environments Map: Advanced)
Activity 1 helps students determine similarities and differences between physical and political maps.
Activity 2 helps students determine the purposes of different thematic maps.
Activity 3 assesses students’ ability to use different types of maps to obtain information.
Students will analyze and compare physical and political maps.
Students will determine the uses of thematic maps.
Students will demonstrate how to use different types of maps to get information about a place.
How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report
information from a spatial perspective
How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context
How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface
Maps are categorized according to the kinds of information they provide. Physical maps show Earth’s
topography—land and water features and their relative elevations. Political maps indicate the division of Earth’s
surface into political units, such as countries, states, and cities. Physical/political maps show the relationship
between Earth’s natural and human features.
Thematic maps show certain characteristics of one class, or theme, of geographic information. For example,
thematic maps can show climates, environments, population distribution, or economies of the world or of a
particular region. Thematic maps also help compare different areas or regions. For example, a comparison of
population density and natural resources provides information about why people live in certain regions.
LESSON PLAN: Types of Maps
LEVEL: Advanced
Other maps—sometimes called mobility maps—provide information about how to get from one place to another.
This category includes road maps, street maps, and aeronautical maps.
Have students compare the World Political Map with the World Physical Map and describe the similarities. Ask
students to identify political features that are found on both maps. [country boundary lines, cities] Ask them to
identify physical features that are shown on both maps. [oceans, rivers, other bodies of water]
Point out that both maps display similar information. What makes each map different? Students should conclude
that the information is presented in different ways. The political map focuses on political features; the physical
map focuses on the physical elevation of the land.
Provide students with copies of the following thematic maps: World Climate Map, World Vegetation Map, and
World Environments Map. Have students work individually or in small groups to answer the questions on the
worksheet titled “Using Thematic Maps.”
Provide students with copies of all the maps from Activity 1 and Activity 2 and the World Population Density
Map. Ask students to identify which maps they would use to answer the following questions:
1. What major African city is in the same climate zone as Paris, France? [political and climate]
2. Which countries in North America have the same natural vegetation as Siberia? [political and vegetation]
3. What climate is required for Taiga (northern forests) to grow? [climate and vegetation]
4. What types of vegetation result from a dry climate? [vegetation and climate]
5. Excluding Antarctica, which continent is the least densely populated? [population and political]
6. The largest area of high population density in Africa follows what natural feature? [population and political
or physical]
Have students use the appropriate maps to answer the questions in Activity 3.
[1. Johannesburg; 2. Canada, United States [Alaska], Greenland; 3. Continental; snowy winters and very short,
cool, humid summers; 4. desert, savanna; 5. Australia; 6. Nile River]
Students can view satellite images of various features of Earth, including cities, landscapes, and weather, at
LESSON PLAN: Types of Maps
LEVEL: Advanced
Language Arts
Based on information from the political, physical, and thematic maps students examined in this lesson, have them
choose a place they would like to live. Ask them to use the maps to describe the features of the place and explain
why they would like to live there.
1. 1-c, 2-e, 3-d, 4-b, 5-a
2. T, F, F, T
3. a. temperate grassland, b. tropical and subtropical forests, c. taiga and tundra
Name: _______________________________________________________
Date: ___________________
Have students use the World Political Map, the World Environments Map, the World Climate Map, and the
World Vegetation Map to answer the following questions.
1. Match the types of environments listed below with examples of the environments.
a. Forest
_____ 1. Northern Canada
b. Barren
_____ 2. Andes Mountains
c. Tundra
_____ 3. Arabian Peninsula
d. Desert
_____ 4. Central Greenland
e. Barren land
_____ 5. Congo Basin
2. Write T for true and F for false in each blank.
_____ Darwin, Australia, has a tropical climate.
_____ Cairo, Egypt, has a continental climate.
_____ Jakarta, Indonesia, has a polar climate.
_____ Stockholm, Sweden, has a continental climate.
3. Name the naturally occurring vegetation of the following places.
North America
a. Great Plains
South America
b. Amazon Basin
c. Siberia