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Geography through the window - Primary

The activities detailed below are specifically linked to map use and will enable you to cover important mapping skills in a time-efficient and fun way.

Year 2

This Geography through the window activity can help pupils:

  • study the locality of the school;
  • use geographical terms;
  • understand direction;
  • make a map; and
  • use symbols.


1. Select an interesting window accessible to your class.

2. Make a tick sheet listing landscape features, some of which can and some of which cannot be seen from the window. Leave room on the page, next to each feature listed, for the pupils to draw in their own symbols. Make a copy for each pupil.

3. Using a local map or large-scale plan, trace over the portion which can be seen from the window. Put in enough details to make it recognisable to the pupils. Enlarge it to A4. If you do not have a map, produce a sketch map yourself. Make a copy for each pupil.

Class activity

1. Provide the tick sheet of map features for the pupils to use at the window. Encourage them to look hard and, in discussion with the class teacher, decide which can be seen and which cannot be seen. Pupils tick those they can see.

2. Explain about using symbols. Show them some examples. Now ask them to make up a symbol that could be used for the features that they can see from the window.

3. Distribute the sketch map. Ask the pupils to cut out the symbols they have drawn and stick them in roughly the right place on the map. Colour in the rest of the map.

4. Ask them to annotate their map with one or more of the suggestions below. Give different groups different suggestions to make your final displays more interesting.

Annotation suggestions

  • Is there something the children can see but do not know what it is? Mark the mystery feature on the map and describe what it is. (This may give an opportunity for fieldwork.)
  • Which direction does the window face? Explain the four compass points and ask them to put a North arrow on their maps.
  • Which are the oldest or newest buildings in the view? Discuss how you might know. Mark the positions, annotate and describe.
  • Is there something they wish was not there at all? Mark the position on the map and annotate with a reason.
  • Which feature or map areas do they like or dislike? Mark and annotate with reasons.
  • Imagine they could have a new feature added. What would they like to see? Draw it in and annotate.

Years 3–6

This Geography through the window activity can help pupils:

  • use appropriate geographical vocabulary;
  • use four-figure grid references;
  • measure distance; and
  • analyse evidence, draw conclusions and communicate findings.


1. Find the most extensive view from a window in your school. Or, if you have no view, consider using a window elsewhere (as long as the view is familiar to pupils).

2. Take a photograph and have an enlargement made, or take a series of photos to provide a panorama. Make colour photocopies for each pupil group and stick on to them card.

3. Make black-and-white photocopies of an Ordnance Survey 1:50 000 scale or 1:25 000 scale map covering the area of view for each group or each individual child.

4. Display the original Ordnance Survey 1:50 000 scale or 1:25 000 scale map on the wall. Overlay some clear plastic and draw on the extent of the view. Also, mark and number four prominent map features that can be seen from the window, as well as the school itself. For younger age groups, add a letter, number grid to the overlay.

5. Create an answer sheet.


1. Distribute the photocopied maps and, if possible, allow groups to compare the actual view with the maps. Ask the pupils to locate the four features you have chosen by looking out of the window, making sure they can also see them in the photographs. Help the pupils mark and number the features on the maps to match the Ordnance Survey map on the wall.

2. Ask them to find out, from the map on the wall, the four-figure grid reference of each feature, (the coordinates of the 1 km by 1 km grid square it occupies) and fill it in on their answer sheet. For younger age groups ask for the letter–number grid reference.

3. Ask them to imagine they are a bird on the school roof who wants to visit all the features in turn, returning to the school. They should mark on their maps a route for the bird and measure the distance in centimetres between each stopping place. What is the total distance in centimetres? Now, using the scale bar on the map convert this to kilometres. Which group found the shortest route?

4. Ask the pupils to look at the photographs and maps and consider whether this is a good place to live. Suggest they consider transport, industry, agriculture, housing, leisure and environment. Ask each group to annotate the photographs with a selection of comments.

5. More able pupils could also estimate the height above sea level of each feature by looking at the nearest contour lines and spot heights. Now they can calculate how many metres higher, or lower, than the school each one is.

Related links

Bring geography to life with this great interactive tool for primary and secondary school children.

Ordnance Survey provides teaching resources for secondary education. Pupils can learn map skills such as interpreting the data and using grid references.

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