Street Map Basketball: Help Students Get Into Using Maps in English

Charles McLarty, Hokkaido University of Information Science

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Competition, cooperation, street locations, basketball, shooting
  • Learner English level: False beginner to intermediate
  • Learner maturity: Junior high school to adult
  • Preparation time: 20-30 minutes
  • Activity time: Depending on class size, 30-60 minutes
  • Materials: Blackboard/whiteboard, chalk/felt pens, simple street map, large size colored city/town map, basket and ball. 

In this game, students become more comfortable using maps in English while getting practice that could come in handy in future situations where giving or receiving street directions becomes necessary. 


Step 1: Give the students the simple street map handouts a week before the game, if possible.

This game works best if students are familiar with terms such as opposite, near/close to, between, on the corner, etc. Put students into pairs or small groups, and have them practice asking each other questions as below:  

Student A: Where is the gas station? 

Student B: It's on 1st Avenue, opposite the post office.

Step 2: Have several pairs of students practice this in front of the class. Correct mistakes and write correct examples on the blackboard. 

Step 3: Have them begin using the colored map. Write the names of three places on the map and tell them to find and mark those with a pen/pencil. When a student has found and marked all three, they raise their hand. Call on two students and have them present the question and answer in front of the class as follows:

Student A: Where is the RC Tower? 

Student B: It's on Morrison Street, near the Heath Building. 

Have several more pairs do this and write their answers on the board. 

Step 4: Show them the basket and ball. Explain that they will now play a game with bonus points/rewards for those correctly giving the location of places on the colored map. Inform them that answering correctly gives their team a basket-shooting chance. If the shooter scores, all team members get bonuses (or candy). Tell them there are no penalties 


Step 1: Call out the name of a place on the map. Students must find the place as quickly as possible. Call on the first student who raises a hand. If he/she gives the location correctly, all members of that team get a bonus/reward.                                               

Step 2: Tell students who have answered correctly that their team has a basket-shooting chance. Move the basket to within shooting range of that team's table. Tell them there is one chance per team. Note: The shooter can be a different team member from the one who answered the question. 

Step 3: Before their shot, tell them that carom shots are okay. I allow bank shots off walls, windows or even off my body! If it goes in, all team members get an additional bonus/candy. 

Step 4: The shooter fires away. When a student misses, encourage him/her to try for another chance. After several teams have earned bonuses/candies, the teacher can say, "The next question is only for teams who have no prizes yet." At the conclusion, I usually give consolation prizes/candy to teams that still don't have them. 


This game helps reinforce basic map vocabulary such as opposite, on the corner, etc. It's helpful if the teacher writes correct student answers on the board after each basket shot. Teams have fun trying to out-bonus rivals, while cooperating with teammates to get the right answers and make their shots. Sometimes I bring in American candies, which are hard to find in Japan. If a class gets into this game, I sometimes repeat it later in the semester. I believe this game will enable teachers to get a lively student response.