Bringing the street into the classroom: A directions lesson with Google Maps

Matthew W. Turner, Rikkyo University

Quick guide

  • Keywords: CALL, TBL, group work, directions, prepositions, place names 
  • Learner English level: All levels
  • Learner maturity: High school and above 
  • Preparation time: 1 hour 
  • Activity time: 90 minutes 
  • Materials: Internet access, A3-sized teacher-prepared maps, computer with large screen or projector, group task cards

Google Maps <> gives us the ability to view the world at street level and experience locations realistically. The activity here details how this Internet application can be used to facilitate a task-based activity on the topic of giving and following directions, with the aim of the lesson being to get students communicating meaningfully through as realistic a learning stimulus as possible. 


Step1: Using Google Maps <>, select an area that is familiar to you and contains a variety of different places that the students can navigate their way to and from. In this case, I used the area around my childhood house to generate heightened learner interest. Make sure the area is Street View compatible. 

Step 2: Screen capture the bird’s-eye view of the chosen area by holding down the Alt key followed by the Print Screen key on a PC, or by holding down the Command and Shift keys together while pressing the 3 key if you’re using a Mac. You could also print directly from the web page. Present the map on A3 paper overlaid with different symbols corresponding to the chosen places (see Appendix A).

Step 3: Depending on class size, prepare two sets of cards for each group (see Appendices B and C).

Step 4: Prepare the web page for display on the monitor before the class commences.


Step 1: Begin the lesson by reviewing language previously taught for giving and responding to directions. Place any useful language on the board or refer students to any relevant lesson material. 

Step 2: Arrange students into smaller groups of 2-5 members and give one map to each group before bringing the webpage up on the screen. 

Step 3: Explain to the students that each shape on the map refers to a different place around the selected area. Point to each shape and give hints about what the place might be: “This is a place where I can borrow books from,” for example. 

Step 4: Tell students you are at one place and would like to get to another by directing a question to the class. Bring up the Street View of your starting point. Have students offer directions, and as they do so, move along the street in accordance to their directions. This stage is aimed at helping students who may be unfamiliar with using Google Maps. 

Step 5: Decide which number to assign to each group and hand out the first task cards (see Appendix B). Explain that the groups now have to write directions between the two locations detailed. Encourage the students to write these directions down in their notebooks.

Step 6: As you move amongst the groups monitoring progress, give each group a further prompt card (see Appendix C). Each group’s prompt card corresponds to another group’s directional instructions. Put the cards face down on the table so as not to distract the groups from their ongoing task. 

Step 7: End the writing task and explain that each group will now have the chance to both ask and give directions to another team using the Internet application. Each group is partnered up with another group in correspondence to the information on their prompt cards (see Appendix C). Whilst one group is at the computer navigating, the partnering group observes their on-screen progress from the projector monitor whilst continuing to offer support. Instruct the other groups to observe and follow on their own A3 maps while waiting for their turns. 


Google Maps can greatly enhance a directions-focused lesson, and bring the outside world easily and accessibly into the classroom. Not only does it offer a different experience for the students, the use of worldly locations to navigate around is a highly stimulating and engaging learning aid.