Cardinal Directions


The short lesson introduces students to the cardinal directions.  Most students know the four different words for the directions, but often get confused when applying the information on maps or when outdoors.  It is important for students to know where the sun rises and sets.  There are many resources teachers may use from the Internet to enhance the lesson as well.  The lesson may be used with other topics related to maps or sunsets and sunrises.

Cardinal Directions Lesson Plan Includes:

  • Full Teacher Guidelines with Creative Teaching Ideas
  • Instructional Content Pages about Cardinal Directions
  • Hands-on homework activities giving students practice in determining Cardinal Directions
  • Answer Keys
  • Common Core State Standards
  • Many Additional Links and Resources
  • Built for Grades 1-2 but can be adapted for other grade levels.

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The lesson introduces students to the cardinal directions. The lesson discusses that directions are sometimes used in the names’ of locations, such as North Dakota or West Virginia, to help people find those locations. The lesson covers how to use a compass, and sample maps are provided so students may practice reading a map using cardinal directions. The lesson may be used in conjunction with other lessons related to maps or sunrises and sunsets.

Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction: 

  1. Determine the cardinal directions of the classroom.  Separate the class into four groups, place one group north, one group east, etc.  Ask students: What is the difference in the location of each group?
  2. Allow for responses and discussion.  Choose a few students individually and ask them to move to a new spot.  Once moved, ask the same students to explain how they moved from one place to another.
  3. Allow for responses.  Each student will likely use a different explanation for the move.  Ask the class if they know words that are used to explain directions.
  4. Allow for responses and discussion.  Introduce Cardinal Directions to the class.
  5. Distribute Cardinal Directions content pages.  Read and review the information with the students.  Save the final question for the lesson closing.  Use the additional resources to enhance understanding.
  6. Distribute Activity page.  Read and review the instructions.  Pair students.  Allow sufficient time for students to make 5 sentences.  Use dictionaries if necessary.  Question 2: The students may work together on the designs, but with question 3, each student will choose a compass rose to redraw on the paper provided, color and cut it out.
  7. Once completed, the student pairs will share their sentences and compass roses with the class.  Display the compass roses in a prominent area of the classroom.
  8. Distribute Practice page.  Check and review the students’ responses.
  9. Distribute the Homework page.  The next day, check and review the students’ responses.
  10. In closing, ask students:  If you left your home and could travel in only one direction, which cardinal direction would you choose?  Why did you choose that direction?

Common Core State Standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.6, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.1, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.7

Class Sessions (45 minutes): 1- 2 class sessions

Additional Resources:

Many more resources in Download!

Want more social studies resources? Check out our other Social Studies Lesson Plans!

Additional information

Grade Level

1st Grade, 2nd Grade


Social Studies

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LaTonia R.

Great Resource

The Cardinal Direction is a great resource for New Teacher. It has the lesson and activities broken down. Also it provides additional resources.