# How to Use a Compass - Lesson Plan and Activities

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## Teaching Students How to Use a Compass

Compasses may seem antiquated in today’s world of Google Maps and GPS devices, but knowing how to use a compass is still a valuable skill. Perhaps more importantly, teaching students this skill gives kids a practical way to understand and relate to the cardinal directions. So if you’re interested in teaching your students how to use a compass, this lesson plan outlines some tips and advice to get you started. This lesson on the compass can be adapted for a range of grade levels, but is probably best for mid to late elementary school classes. [caption id="attachment_130292” align="aligncenter” width="640”] Using a compass is a useful skill[/caption]

## Step 1: Review the Cardinal Directions

Especially if you’re working with younger kids, you’ll want to be sure they have a handle on the cardinal directions before you start teaching them about compasses. Two good ways to accomplish this review are by referencing a map and teaching them a mnemonic. For a more practical, everyday example, you might also want to mention driving, since many cars now have displays that show the direction the vehicle is moving and students are likely to have noticed this at some point. Looking at a map: Get out a map (or a globe, though that will make the lesson a little more abstract) and show the students the compass rose, explaining how it is a visual guide to understanding directions. Locate your hometown and another town or city (have the students suggest one) and ask questions such as “What direction would you go to get from A to B” to determine if the students understand how to interpret and follow directions. Introduce a mnemonic: Even older kids (and adults) sometimes have trouble remembering the order of the directions, particularly the correct orientation of East and West. Introduce the students to a mnemonic such as “Never Eat Soggy Waffles,” “Never Eat Sour Watermelon,” or “Never Enter Stinky Washrooms” to help them keep the cardinal directions straight.

## Step 2: Explaining the Compass

Bring in a real compass, preferably more than one. If you have enough, first let the kids play around with them in pairs or small groups, and solicit their ideas as to how this device might work. Then you can segue into the informational part of the lesson, which deals with explaining the function and parts of a compass and how it is used.