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I Can Compass, Can You?

Main Core Tie

Social Studies - 1st Grade
Standard 3 Objective 1

Time Frame

4 class periods of 15 minutes each


Calbert Beck
Kristen Cottrell
Stephanie Seely


Students will be able to use a compass to identify the cardinal directions, identify the North and South Poles, identify Utah on a variety of maps, and identify the United States on a map or globe.



You will need:

  • 1 paper plate per student
  • Crayons
  • Utah outline template (see handout)
  • United States outline template (see handout)
  • United States and World maps (see handout)
  • globe

Background for Teachers

Teachers will want to familiarize themselves with the map locations of the cities and landmarks they will map with the class.

Student Prior Knowledge

A map is a picture that helps us to find where things are. Utah is a state that we live in. Utah is one of the 50 states that are in the United States.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Identify the cardinal directions
  • Identify Utah on a variety of maps or globe
  • Identify the United States on a map or globe

Instructional Procedures

Session #1
Anticipatory Set:
Print the "cardinal directions" activity sheet.

Discuss each of the directions with the students, using these key terms:

  • East: Where the sun wakes/comes up
  • West: Where the sun goes down/to sleep
  • North: The top of the world. Where polar bears live.
  • South: The bottom of the world. Where penguins live.

Application and Practice:
After discussion, hang up the cardinal direction papers you colored on the appropriate walls of your classroom. Have the students stand up and teach them the acronym N.E.S.W., which stands for North, East, South, West.

Tell them you will teach them a funny sentence to help them remember the directions in order. Have them face north and say loudly, "Never". Then turn and face the wall to their right and say, "Eat". Turn to the right again and say, "Slimy", and finally turn to the last wall and state, "Worms"

Announce to the class a direction, or the acronym word representing the direction. Have the students turn to the correct direction you call out. You can even have students call out the directions to the class.

Have the students take home their direction papers, and put them up in their room correctly. Have a parent sign a paper stating they completed the task if you like.

Session #2
Anticipatory Set:
Have the students color the directional papers again, and cut them out. Ask them, then help them, to place them on the appropriate sides of their desks. Once complete, have them stand up and recite the N.E.S.W. chant several times or even play the directional game from Session #1.

Pass out the paper plates. Model how to put an "N" on one edge of the paper plate. Explain to the students that N or North, is always up on a map. Have them write "North" under the N and draw a picture of a polar bear by it, because they live in the north.

Model how to draw an "E" to the right of the "N". Ask the students if they think they know what the "E" stands for. Have them write East by the "E", and draw a picture of the sunrise. Continue with the rest of the directions until the plate is a homemade compass.

If possible, take the children outside and show them that once they figure out one of the cardinal directions (by landmark, sunrise, sunset) they can set their compass to show the correct directions. Repeat the N.E.S.W. chant while outside.

Have the children take a number of steps in a direction; for example, say "take 10 steps north, now take 10 steps west". This will allow you show them that they need to rotate the compass to maintain true directionality.

Session #3
Anticipatory Set:
Have the students make another paper plate compass. Hand out the Utah outline paper. Inquire if anyone remembers what direction is always up on a map. After the response, or lack of, draw an "N" at the top of your Utah outline. Ask them if they believe they can fill in the other directions.

After several moments, model how to label the directions (You an also expose them to a compass rose on the paper, consolidating the areas used for directions from the edges of the paper to one central location).

To model the rest of the work, you can project your outline, or draw one on the board.

Draw a small circle in the bottom left corner. Have the students copy the circle onto their paper. Tell them "This symbol on the map means a city is here. Can anyone tell me what city it might be"?

"The city we just mapped is called St. George". Do the same with other cities they may be familiar with: Tooele, Salt Lake City, Logan, Vernal, Beaver, and Moab.

Once they have completed filling in their Utah map, ask them to look at the map of the U.S. Tell them to look at the shape of Utah on their Utah map. Ask them if the shape reminds them of anything. Then ask them if they can find Utah on the U.S. map, and color it in with a crayon.

Repeat with the world map by asking them to look at the shape of the U.S. on their map, and see if they can color in the U.S. on the world map.


Extensions can be implemented by expanding the number or items you map on the blank maps with the students.

Possible mapping locations could be, but are not limited to: cities, physical landmarks (lakes, rivers, monuments), and roads.

You can also extend the final session by having the students produce a compass, or compass rose on their maps.

Utah educators can download the following videos from UEN's eMedia service which can be access via Pioneer Online Library

  • Understanding My Community. How Geography Shapes a Community.
  • My Neighborhood, My Community. People in the City.

Created: 06/17/2010
Updated: 02/05/2018