Cardinal Directions


In our Cardinal Directions lesson plan, students learn about what the four cardinal directions are (north, south, east, and west) and how to use them. Students learn to identify the four cardinal directions and how to apply these words to things like using a map.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to teach students how to use a compass and have them practice using it.

Buy Now For $1.95


What our Cardinal Directions lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Cardinal Directions introduces students to the cardinal directions. Most students know the four different words for the directions. However, they might get confused when applying the information on maps or when outdoors. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify the four cardinal directions and apply the information using a map or a sunrise and sunset. This lesson is for students in 1st grade and 2nd grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, you will need constructions paper, colored pencils, scissors, and the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can determine the orientation of your classroom, pair students for the activity, gather the supplies, and copy the handouts.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One of the optional additions is to take students outdoors and identify the cardinal directions. Also, you can assign students a direction, give them a map, and have them name the other places found away in that direction from the school. You could also have students use a state or local map to “travel” different directions to specific places and write down which cardinal directions they used to get there. Another idea is to make an extra large compass rose and use it to cover a wall in your classroom for the lesson. Finally, you can introduce students to a compass and teach them how to use it.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. It notes that while students may be familiar with the names of the cardinal directions, they likely don’t know how to use them in real life, on maps or outside. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


Cardinal Directions

The Cardinal Directions lesson plan includes three pages of content. Students will first learn that when they go somewhere alone or with their family, they are traveling in a direction. A direction is the course or path someone moves. There are words that we use to describe the different directions that people, cars, planes, and more move in. We call the four main directions cardinal directions. They are north, south, east, and west. You can find these directions on maps, compasses, and more. Students will then learn that some places actually include one of these direction words in their names, such as West Virginia and South Korea. This helps people locate them in relation to something else. These cardinal directions always point to the same place. For example, the direction north always points to the North Pole and south always points to the South Pole. East is always where the sun rises from and west is where it sets.

You can often find cardinal directions on compasses. A compass rose indicates each direction using letters to represent each cardinal direction. They use an N for north, S for south, E for east, and W for west.

Using Cardinal Directions

The next section of the Cardinal Directions lesson plan teaches students how to use them. You can find these cardinal directions in all kinds of directions, whether someone is telling them to you, you’re using a physical map, or you’re using a GPS. A GPS system, like the ones that students may see in their parents’ cars, often use cardinal directions to tell you where to go.

The lesson then has students complete a simple exercise to test their understanding of the lesson. It provides a simple map and asks students to answer questions using the map about what direction they would travel to go from one place to the next.

The lesson next notes that students can use a mnemonic device to remember the cardinal directions. It provides two that the students can use: Never Eat Sugar Water and Nice, Easy, Slow, Water. It reminds students that if they’re outside, they can use the sun to figure out the directions. The sun rises in the east. If they face the sunrise, north will be to the left, south will be to the right, and west will be behind them. Students can practice using cardinal directions in their everyday life, like when they’re on the bus or in a car. Some street signs also have cardinal directions on them.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Direction: the course or path you move
  • Cardinal directions: the four main directions or points


The Cardinal Directions lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


Students will work with a partner to complete the activity worksheet for this lesson. First, they will create short sentences or phrases using the letters “N,” “E,” “S,” and “W” to help them remember the cardinal directions. Next, they will use a box with four sections to make four different designs for a compass rose. Finally, they will copy one of their designs for a compass rose onto a large piece of paper, color it in, and cut it out.

Students may work either alone or in groups for this activity if you’d prefer.


The practice worksheet asks students to look at a grid with ten states listed down the lefthand side. They will then have to determine which states are found north, east, south, and west of that state. They must then do the same for the state they live in, if it is not already on the list.


For the homework assignment, students will follow the instructions to correctly place numbers throughout a grid of boxes. These instructions say things like “move two boxes south, place a 2.” They will add the numbers one through 15 to the boxes. They will then answer a list of questions about cardinal directions and how to use them. This will test their understanding of the lesson material.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the homework assignment. No answer keys are provided for the activity worksheet or the practice worksheet. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


1st Grade, 2nd Grade


Social Studies, Video

State Educational Standards

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

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

Customer Reviews
5.0 Based on 4 Reviews
5 ★
4 ★
3 ★
2 ★
1 ★
Write a Review

Thank you for submitting a review!

Your input is very much appreciated. Share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too!

Filter Reviews:
United States United States

Awesome resource!

My Class loved this unit!

A Learn Bright Customer
Taliya T.

2nd grader

great activity and practice and homework. She enjoyed making the directions compass and using it

Dean G.

Love this service

Fantastic website

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.