Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Where in the World Are We?

Linda Kitner
Bay District Schools


The students will read a postcard and find the location on a map. They will use the picture and the text on the postcard to write about and tell about an imaginary vacation. They will compute mileage and compare it to Tripmaker data.


The student writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes.

The student uses electronic technology, including word-processing software and electronic encyclopedias, to create, revise, retrieve, and verify information.

The student creates expository responses in which ideas and details follow an organizational pattern and are relevant to the purpose.

The student speaks for specific occasions, audiences, and purposes, including conversations, discussions, projects, and informational or imaginative presentations.

The student adds, subtracts, and multiplies whole numbers, decimals, and fractions, including mixed numbers, and divides whole numbers to solve real-world problems, using appropriate methods of computing, such as mental mathematics, paper and pencil, and calculator.

The student determines which units of measurement, such as seconds, square inches, dollars per tankful, to use with answers to real-world problems.

The student identifies and plots positive ordered pairs (whole numbers) in a rectangular coordinate system (graph).

The students uses maps, globes, charts, graphs, and other geographic tools including map keys and symbols to gather and interpret data and to draw conclusions about physical patterns.


--Armadillo from Amarillo- by Lynne Cherry, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1994
-Postcards that picture sites of educational importance, for example, national parks, state flags, things that will represent the state
-State road maps
-Student atlases
-Laminated U.S. map and World map (depending on where your postcards are from)
-String and pushpins
-TripMaker, Rand McNally,1997 software
-Where in the World are We? mileage charts (see Attached File)
-Postcard Place Label form for bulletin board (see Attached File)
-Where in the World are We? Rubric (see Attached File)


1. Collect postcards and roadmaps.
2. Laminate U.S. map and World Map.
3. Learn to use Tripmaker, Rand McNally.
4. Practice using the scale on the maps you will give the students.
5. Teach the skill of using scale to figure mileage.
6. Locate -Armadillo from Amarillo,- Lynn Cherry.


Day 1
1. Read -The Armadillo from Amarillo,- by Lynn Cherry. Discuss the content of the postcards that Armadillo sent to his cousin. Explain that the reason for postcards is so people can share their vacation with their friends and family.
2. Ask the class if anyone went on a vacation over the break. Invite students to share about their trip orally and tell them to bring any postcards that they bought on the trip. Assess present knowledge of map skills by having them locate their vacation site on the U.S. or World Map. Use this opportunity to teach or review how to locate places on a map.
3. Show the class different types of maps. Be sure to include state road maps, atlas, and U.S. poster map. Show them how the scale is different on each map. Demonstrate how to locate a specific point on the map using the index and the grids, and then use the scale to figure out how far that place is from their home.

Day 2
1. Brainstorm other words that can be used for the word -vacation,- for example, excursion, safari, leave, road trip, trip, holiday, weekender, etc. Students will use these words for the bulletin board that will be built as they locate the postcard places.
2. Tell the class that you have a few friends who went on vacations this summer and they sent you postcards. Give one to each student or group depending on how many cards you have available.
3. Give them time to read the cards and look at the pictures. Then give them a map or atlas. I have a very good collection of road maps and postcards. I found that the road maps always give a lot of information about the state. They also show small details like rivers, mountains, lakes and National Parks that a poster map doesn't show. Allow plenty of time to let the students go over the maps and locate the postcard site. Circulate and spot check to see if they know how to use the scale and the map key. Teach them how to locate towns by using the grids. (The more time spent with the maps, the more interested they became.) This is also a good time to do some sharing about interesting things they found on their map.
4. After the students have had time to study the postcards and their maps tell them to pretend they went on this vacation. They will write a short account of the trip based on the route and the picture postcard's setting. They should be able to tell what states they traveled through to get to their vacation spot as well as interesting places along the way. For example, the card shows a feedlot in Lubbock, Texas. The student would write, -We had to drive nearly 1300 miles to get here but we are finally here. We traveled through Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Wish you were here with us at this feedlot. There are hundreds and hundreds of cows. It sure does smell bad and it is hot and dusty. I wish you were here to see this.-

Day 3
1. The students will present their -vacation tales- orally, using the maps as visual aides.

Day 4
1. Refer back to the book and remind the kids how Armadillo flew on the back of the eagle.
2. Explain to the students that the metaphor -As the crow flies- means by air from one point to another. Pose the question, -I wonder what the difference in mileage would be if you traveled to your site in a car or on the wings of a crow or an eagle?-
3. Instruct one student in how to use the software Tripmaker. He or she will be the expert and will then help each student to find out the mileage from home to the postcard place. Plot this mileage on the information sheet. (see Attached File) Then have each student record the mileage using the scale for the map. Use a string to measure from their home to the postcard place; use the scale and put it on the data sheet. Next, compute the difference in mileage by highway and by air. Space is allowed for more postcards; they will want to do more than just one. This is a great center activity after the students have learned how to use the software.
4. Have the students fill out the postcard label. (see Attached File)
5. Place the laminated U.S. map poster and world poster, if you have cards from foreign countries, on a bulletin board.

Day 5
1. Use the laminated U.S map and world map to plot the location of all the postcards with the pushpins. Place the postcards outside the map and run a piece of string from the card to the location.
2. Have the students make a title above the maps such as -Did You Go on a ____________This Summer?-
Put a list of the synonyms for vacation in the blank.
3. I used this as a bulletin board in the library and everyone stopped and looked at the maps and the postcards. My class continued getting postcards from travelers in our school all year long.


See the attached rubric for detailed criteria and scale in a Word document. Criteria for assessment includes the following:

-locates places
-uses key
-uses coordinates
-plots places

-uses scale to figure mileage
-uses correct unit of measurement
-completes information sheet
-computes difference
-uses map coordinates

-writes narrative
-includes details
-arranges events in order
-stays focused
-gives oral presentation
-uses good speaking
-uses visuals

-uses Tripmaker software


The focus of this lesson is on learning and using map-reading skills. The students should be familiar with directions on the map, using a map key, using the scale for mileage and following highways and interstate highways on the map.
Extension to writing: Have the students make their own postcard of their school or favorite place in their hometown. Send it to family or friends.
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