Beacon Lesson Plan Library

How Do You Know Where You Are?

Catherine Dixon


This activity introduces students to geographic thinking, setting the stage for the creation of a map showing distance, direction, location and symbols from their residences to school.


The student extends and refines ability to use mental maps of selected regions (for example, mountains chains, bodies of water).


- Chart paper
- Lead pencil and colored pencils
- Rubric (copy for each student)
- Overhead transparency of rubric
- Video on ancient mariner navigation using navigation tools such as the sextant


1. Download the rubric from the Associated File and make a copy for each student.
2. Gather background information on how ancient mariners used navigational tools and begin to brief yourself before teaching the lesson.
3. Any video that addresses the tools that early explorers used to nagivate the seas, such as the sextant and/or magnetic compass.
4. Make an overhead transparency of rubric and make a copy for each student.
5. Gather chart paper and supplies.
6. Gather examples of completed mental maps.
7. Copies of mini lesson notes for ESE and ESOL students.
8. Copy of geography map rules for each student.


1. Write this question on the board: How do you know where you are? Divide the class into groups of four. Students discuss the question within their groups and select a spokesperson to respond.

2. Engage students in class discussion on location, distance and navigation.
Call upon several students to share personal experiences of being lost and how they found their way from point to point. Did they use landmarks to navigate? For example, how did they feel about being in a new school building for the first time? How did they find their classes? Briefly discuss their responses.

3. Provide a mini-lesson on the importance of navigation through time and the ability to find your way from one place to another and back. Explain that we sense our surroundings visually. These visual cues may include landmarks, such as roads, stores, hills, lakes, ponds, rivers, and other physical features. Explain that ancient mariners learned to navigate without the aid of modern technology, using the Sun and other celestial bodies. Show a video of ancient mariners navigating using the tools of the day, such as the sextant. (For example, Christopher Columbus sailing to the New World.) (See Preparation section.)

4. Distribute and discuss the rubric. Explain the formative assessment process.

5. Allow time for students to practice creating the map with collaboration within their groups to offer peer feedback on the accuracy of maps. Move through the class monitoring studentsí progress and offer corrective and affirmative feedback.

6. Use the rubric to formatively assess the draft of the map, writing feedback based on the rubric criteria. Based on the feedback from the formative assessment, students recreate their maps.

7. Use the rubric to assess the recreated maps.


Students develop a map from memory that demonstrates directions from their homes to the school.

Students use completed maps to present their routes to their teams. Students use the rubric, which includes the criteria for successful performance. (See attached file.)


1. Provide a copy of mini-lesson notes for ESE and ESOL students.
2. Allow peer tutoring for ESE and ESOL students.
3. Student audiotapes the mini-lesson.

Attached Files

A rubric used for assessment of the project.     File Extension: pdf

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