Online Mapping Services

As part of my MA course, I had to write a review of a textbook I was familiar with. The only one I use regularly is with my elementary school classes, as provided by the government here. I wasn’t particularly kind, accusing it of not providing any kind of genuine communicative activities, and at times harking back to the audio-lingual method.  Writing the review reminded me that as much as possible I needed to come up with my own activities.

My elementary students were struggling a little to get to grips with the directions unit, and the book only provides a few dry, top down maps to practice with. They are contrived, yet still don’t make it very easy to apply the language. My students were not really connecting with what they were being asked to do. I wanted an activity which was a little more communicative, and was based more in the real world than the book’s world. Fortunately, living in a small town in Korea meant that I had a ready-made and real location that all of my students were familiar with.

I made a kind of treasure hunt (PPT here: Shopping Trip to Jinbu *) using some of the places vocabulary from the unit, and then using’s wonderful mapping service we ‘walked’ around the town on “road-view” with the students giving each other directions to the places they knew. All of a sudden there was a real desire in my students to use the language and get to the place to uncover the next clue (sadly I didn’t find a way to embed the clues on the map). They also, almost without realising it, spent the entire lesson communicating with me, and each other in English. They looked almost surprised when I told them this at the end.

I only used the first person view for my exercise, as I wanted the students to get used to using the language in real time, but if you wanted to test planning skills you could try planning routes top down and then have students ‘walk’ them through on road-view. The detail on the pictures is also good enough to read the text on shop widows, so you could plan a real treasure hunt around your area. Of course, Daum only really works if you teach in Korea, but there’s also Google Maps. I used their “street-view” towards the end of last semester to give some students a guided tour of the village in the UK where I grew up. This also really captured the students’ imaginations, and we ended up also taking a tour of Baker St. as one had just read Sherlock Holmes.

Online maps are a great way to have fun, explore the world and bring some reality and authenticity into your classroom. I’m sure there are many other ways that they could be used. If you have any ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments section.


*Once again, I think you’ll need the font for this. It’s called Fh-nicole and available here.


2 responses to “Online Mapping Services

  1. Stolen from – I did a lesson using Daum maps for describing how things ‘used to be’. The map for my town is from 2009 and many of the shops and streets have changed since then. I let the students explore the town using the maps and talk about how things used to be.

    “Paris Baguette used to be a PC room.” “There used to be more houses.” “That building used to be grey.” “I used to live in that apartment.” “I used to go to that school.”

    I little thin in premise but it allows for some really authentic and practical communication.

    • Hi,

      Thanks very much for reading and commenting.

      I really like this idea. As you say, it reeks of authenticity and practicality. It’s the sort of thing I can even imagine myself doing, which I can’t say for a lot of stuff that I see/do in class. I think the premise is great, and there are probably a tonne of ways to extend it, like presenting their walks around the town.

      Cheers again,


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