A whole new world

27th June 2008 at 01:00
Newspapers present an image of how the world looks, but what if you were asked to recreate it in map form? Tessa Willy sets pupils a cartographic task
Newspapers present an image of how the world looks, but what if you were asked to recreate it in map form? Tessa Willy sets pupils a cartographic task

Where in the world do things happen? This is a lesson I've done with Years 5 and 6, in which I give groups of three or four pupils a copy of one broadsheet newspaper and one tabloid. They go through each and note on a tally chart what countries the stories are set in. Once that's done, I ask them to draw a world map on a piece of squared paper, proportional to the number of times the country has featured as the main focus of a story.

This is based on proportional maps, seen on the Worldmapper website (www.worldmapper.org) and pictured here, where parts of the world are sized according to different topics, such as wealth, population or life expectancy.

We discuss scale and what would be most appropriate for a map based on news - one square for each story seemed the best way. Iraq, for example, would be much bigger on this kind of map than it would on a normal one.

They then draw the map, recreating the shape of the country as closely as possible. They do one map for the broadsheet and one for the tabloid, which usually shows up quite a discrepancy between the two types of newspaper (broadsheets tend to have more international stories). This is something they discuss afterwards when each group feeds back to the rest.

The point of the lesson is to develop children's spatial awareness and help them become familiar with the world map, countries' locations and their size and shape. It also encourages pupils to appreciate that different news stories are reported in different kinds of newspapers.

It is a useful lesson because of the numerous offshoots that are possible and the fact that it allows the teacher and pupils the flexibility to develop it in the way that interests them most

Tessa Willy is a senior lecturer in geography education at Roehampton University, London

You can do it too

- Get a good range of papers - not on election day or equivalent when the news will be British-centric.

- Try to ensure that your atlases are up-to-date and there are enough to go round the groups.

- Go through instructions clearly so they are confident and assured as to what they should be doing.

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