What our Latitude and Longitude lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Latitude and Longitude teaches students how to define these terms and distinguish between the two. Students will discover how to use coordinates to find different places on a map. They will also learn why GPS must depend on latitude and longitude to work properly. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade and 4th grade.
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 yellow 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 need scissors and writing/coloring utensils. Students will also need internet access.
Options for Lesson
You can check out the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page for additional suggestions for ideas and activities to incorporate into the lesson. For instance, latitude and longitude can be a confusing concept for young students. We suggest, before beginning the lesson, to teach or review three skills. The first is cardinal directions and how to read a map. The second skill is the math skill of teaching coordinate planes and locating points. This will facilitate students’ understanding of latitude and longitude. Finally, a quick lesson on GPS will foster a deeper understanding of latitude and longitude. Learn Bright has lessons for all three skills—check them out.
The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information to help guide the lesson and remind you what to focus on. It explains that this lesson aims to clarify latitude and longitude, reinforce coordinate plane skills, and explain how GPS works. The blank lines on this page are available for you to write out thoughts and ideas you have as you prepare the lesson.
LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
Before the Internet
The Latitude and Longitude lesson plan contains five pages of content. Before internet map programs, explorers depended on reliable but less accurate navigation methods. The earliest explorers used visual landmarks to determine where they were. You can imagine that when there was bad weather or heavy fog, it was hard to see and decide on their exact location. Following the position of the sun or stars was another method. Constellations change seasonally, so explorers had to be very aware of the change in the seasons.
Some sailors used seabirds to navigate. If they observed a bird with a fish in its mouth, the bird was likely returning to land to have a meal! In some parts of the world, the wind and sea currents move in the same direction. Maps, charts, and journals were obviously helpful. Explorers kept meticulous or very accurate records. And eventually, they used technologically advanced tools like compasses, sextants, and other instruments. Over time more advanced electronic devices replaced many of the ancient navigation methods.
Students will discover that one tool people still use today was invented more than 2,000 years ago! The Greeks were incredibly good at math. Much of the geometry you do in school today comes from the Greeks. Eratosthenes was a third-century BCE writer, geographer, astronomer, philosopher, and poet. He is credited with creating maps with spaced grid lines. These lines are called lines of latitude and lines of longitude. Latitude and longitude lines are used today to find exact locations on Earth. In fact, modern global positioning systems (GPSs) use latitude and longitude. So, what are latitude and longitude? And how do they work? Great questions!
What Are Latitude and Longitude?
Let’s begin with the basics—grid systems. You may have used a grid system in math. The math term for a grid system is coordinate plane. A grid system is a space with squares. The squares are all equal in size, and each is a unit of measurement. Sometimes in math class, the grid will have intersecting perpendicular lines. The lines form an x-axis and a y-axis. The grid squares, an ordered pair of numbers, and an x-y axis allow you to plot or find a location on the grid. Latitude and longitude work similarly to the math grid you use in class! So far, this is easy!
We have learned that latitude and longitude lines create a grid system like the ones we use in math class. They don’t appear straight on a globe because the earth is not a square but is round or oval shaped. The first line we will look at is the equator. The equator is an imaginary line drawn around the middle of the earth. The equator divides the earth into halves called the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Hemisphere comes from the Greek word hemi, or half, and sphere, meaning globe. The equator is a latitude line. It runs east to west. That means lines of latitude run horizontally, or from east to west. Lines of latitude are also known as parallels because they run parallel to the equator. Latitude measures the distance north or south of the equator. The equator is the start of latitude. That’s why it’s marked 0 degrees latitude.
Another imaginary line that connects the North and South Poles is known as the prime meridian. The prime meridian divides the earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Longitude measures the distance east and west of the prime meridian. The prime meridian is a line of longitude. Lines of longitude run vertically, or from north to south. Lines of longitude are known as meridians because all the places along a line of longitude experience midday simultaneously. The prime meridian is 0 degrees longitude.
Essential Vocabulary, Practice, and Tips
Lines of latitude and longitude intersect or cross each other. The intersection forms a grid pattern like the one you use in math. The points where the lines of latitude and longitude intersect are called coordinates. Coordinates are two numbers on a grid that you use to locate a specific point or position. You can identify any place on Earth using coordinates.
The lesson then provides a page listing 16 essential vocabulary terms that students should familiarize themselves with. Because there are so many terms to learn that relate to the subject of this lesson, students can refer to this content page for an organized look at all the words.
Next, the fourth content page gives students a chance to practice finding the correct coordinates of four locations. This grid is not geographically accurate, but students should be able to learn and understand how a coordinate plane works overall with respect to latitudes and longitudes. You can go through this section as a class or have students try to figure it out individually and then go through the answers together.
The last content page focuses on common tips that might help your students remember which lines are latitudes and which are longitudes (meridians). The first is that the latitude number is always first and moves north or south of the equator. Longitudes are always second and move east or west of the prime meridian.
Another tip is to picture an image of a ladder. The rungs of the ladder run crossways. To climb higher (or lower), you have to go up the rungs (or down) of the ladder. These represent latitude lines. The rails of the ladder represent longitude lines. One more tip is to think of this rhyme: Flat lines are like lat lines. Or students could think of their eyebrows going sideways as latitude lines and their “long” hair hanging down as longitudes.
LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The Latitude and Longitude lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. These worksheets will help students demonstrate what they learned throughout the lesson and reinforce the lesson concepts. The guide on the classroom procedure page outlines when to hand out each worksheet to your students.
DEFINITION MATCH ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
For the activity, students will cut out all the definitions and terms on the two worksheet pages. They will then shuffle the papers and try to match the definitions to the correct terms. You could have your students pair up and make it a competition to see who finishes the fastest. Or make it a class-wide competition as they work individually.
COORDINATES PRACTICE WORKSHEET
The practice worksheet requires students to practice identifying latitudes and longitudes. They must first input their home address into a computer or cell phone and find the coordinates of their house. Then, depending on where in the world you and your class are located, students will pick three other significant places in ONE of the same hemispheres as they are in. For instance, if they live in the US, the three other locations should be in either the Northern or Western Hemispheres. If they live in Australia, then they should find places in either the Southern and Eastern Hemispheres.
Once they choose their locations, students will put a dot on the coordinate plane. They will have to figure out what the interval degrees will be on the plane as well. This can be tricky, but students can reference the content pages for help. Additionally, make sure your students understand that the center point of the plane will not be 0, 0. It will depend on where each of the four locations are.
LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
Using colored pencils or markers, students will mark various locations the map on the worksheet. They will color each hemisphere a different color and mark where the prime meridian and equator are.
Worksheet Answer Keys
There are answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets at the end of the lesson plan document. For the practice, the answers are sample responses only. Students’ responses will vary. On the homework, students may choose different colors for the map. Keep that in mind as you grade. 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.