Make a Custom Interactive Map

Your class can make custom interactive maps at Google Maps for any lesson. Have students find and mark battle sites for a history lesson, make an annotated map of your town, or identify locations in a book. Once you’ve made the map, you can save it and add to it in the future, print it out, or put it on your class website. You can even open it in Google Earth as a tour and fly from place to place, or see your map on the Earth as we did with our pasta map, below.

pasta map of Italy

Here are step by step instructions:

First, go to Google Maps. Click on “My Places.” If you don’t have a Google account, you’ll be prompted to create one.


make an interactive map step 1

Next, click on the “Create Map” button.  Easy so far, huh?

make an interactive map

Step 3 is to fill in the form. Tell Google Maps where you want to go in the search bar next to the Google logo, type title and description for your map into the title and description boxes, and click on “Unlisted” if you want to keep the map private to your classroom.

custom classroom map

Now for the fun part.In the area circled below you have tools: the hand lets you move the map to the exact spot you want, the line lets you draw lines to enclose an area or show a path, and the map pin icon lets you add placemarks.

add placemarks to your map

When you click on the map pin and pull your placemark to the right spot, you get a dialogue box, much like the box on Facebook, where you can write descriptions. Plain Text lets you type simple information, while Rich Text lets you add links or pictures, change colors, make bulleted lists, and use bold or italic text. Students can write paragraphs, add illustrations, or link to research sources for the places they’re working on.

add descriptions to your map

Once you finish adding lines and placemarks and descriptions, you can finish your map by clicking on “Done” just above your title. As you can see, there are collaboration and import options — explore them when you have time.

finish the map

Your completed map works just like any other Google map. the icons in the upper right hand corner allow you to print, email, or share your map. Click on the link to get the web address to make a link to your map so you can send it home with students to share with their families.

custom classroom map

You will be given the link, and also the code for embedding the map on a website. If you ever share YouTube videos on Facebook, this step will be familiar.

link to your map

To see your map in Google Earth instead of Google Maps, click the button that says “KML or the Google Earth logo that shows right under the description of your finished map.

Try this out yourself before you assign it to your class so you can help troubleshoot. Once you try it, you’ll be amazed at how often you can use it — and at how much it helps your students with their map skills.


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