Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Where Is Japan? What Direction Is It?

Sandi King
Bay District Schools


Students use literature and manipulatives to understand that maps and globes represent real places, the cardinal directions, and the hemispheres. Selected countries will be located on a map and globe. This lesson plan is for three days of instruction.


The student knows the locations of the four hemispheres and selected countries on a map and globe.

The student understands that a map represents a real place.

The student knows the four cardinal directions (for example, north, south, east, west).


- Summative Assessment #1 for each student (from the unit's associated files)
-Jacobsen, Karen. [Japan, A New True Book]. Chicago: Children's Press, 1982.
- Baily, Donna, and Anna Sproule. [Japan, Where We Live]. Austin: Steck-Vaughn, 1990.
- Knowlton, Jack, and Harriet Barton. [Maps & Globes]. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.
- Peet, Bill. [Chester the Worldly Pig]. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
- A globe
- Various maps including a large world map
- Drawing paper
- Crayons
- Pen-pal letter (a mock letter written by the teacher)
- Student Online Web Lesson, Where Is Japan? (see Weblinks)
- A compass rose transparency made from the graphic in the associated files


1. Download the associated file. For best results in printing the detailed maps in the file, be sure to use a laser printer.
2. Download, print, and duplicate Summative Assessment#1 for each student. This assessment tool is available from the unit's associated files.
3. Make transparencies of the compass rose from the associated file.
4. Locate and preview the books listed.
5. Locate a globe and various maps including a large world map.
6. Preview the Student Web Lesson, Where Is Japan? Schedule an adult assistant for your students if one is needed.


Day 1
1. Introduce the lesson by reading a mock letter written by a first grader from Japan requesting an American pen pal. Create the excitement of making a new friend and learning about how people in different places live.

2. Pose the guiding question, Where is Japan?

3. Establish through questioning that Japan is a real place. Give examples of real and make believe places. Make believe places can include Oz, Never Never Land, the Hundred Acre Woods, Fraggle Town. Real places can include your town, state, various countries, and attractions, such as Disney World.

4. During read-aloud time, read the book [Japan, a New True Book], by Karen Jacobsen or [Japan, Where We Live] by Donna Bailey and Anna Sproule to further establish that Japan is a real place and to assist students in building some background knowledge of Japan. (See Materials.) This is an introductory activity for social studies.

5. During social studies, use a map and/or globe to find Japan and any other countries of interest to your students, such as foreign birthplaces.

6. Compare features on a globe. Use the terms more, less, larger, and smaller while comparing land masses or various water volumes.

7. During language arts time, introduce the vocabulary words Japan, map, globe, pen pal, and place. Use these words during phonics and point out the beginning, ending, and/or vowel sounds of the various words. Discuss the capital J in Japan and establish Japan as a name of a place. Have students group the words by their common characteristics (phonetically, Japan and map have short a sounds, or by usage, they are all nouns).

8. Introduce the Student Online Web Lesson, Where is Japan? This Web lesson will assist the students in understanding that maps represent a real place learning the four cardinal directionsand locating the four hemispheres and selected countries on a map and globe.

This interactive Web lesson can be done whole group but is more effective when pairs of students proceed through the lesson as students get practice reading and interacting. An adult volunteer may need to assist non-readers. Depending on the computers available to your class, this Web lesson may take up to a week for your entire class to complete.

9. Formatively assess and correct any misinformation as students participate in class discussions and point to various areas on the maps or globes.

Day 2
1. Review the guiding question, Where is Japan? Orally review content from Day 1.

2. During read-aloud time, read [Maps & Globes] by Jack Knowlton and Harriett Barton to introduce the concepts of directions on a map. As this book can be difficult for some 3rd graders, it is suggested that the following pages be the prime focus: 1, 8-9, 12-13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 40, 41, and 42. The book is an introduction item to map skills and should be revisited throughout the unit as relevant topics are taught. (See Materials.)

3. Add the words north, south, east, and west to the unit vocabulary. Continue language arts activities from Day 1.

4. Prior to taking students outside to play Simon Says (next step), teach the students the "Never Eat Sour Worms" reminder of N, E, S, W associations.

5. Take the class outside at noon. Their shadows will be pointing north. With the class facing their shadows, teach the students that south is behind them, east is to their right, and west is to the left. Play Simon Says using the four cardinal directions in Simon's commands, such as: Simon says, take a giant step north.

6. Establish the cardinal directions in your classroom and hang signs showing the appropriate direction.

7. Show the transparency of the compass rose from the associated files. Discuss the different directions and how they are shown on the compass rose.

8. Show the students various compass roses on maps in the classroom. Any design that establishes the directions is considered a compass rose.

9. Ask leading questions using the four cardinal directions, such as: Which way will you walk to get from your desk to the door? What state is west of Colorado? Which direction would I have to go to get from Florida to Georgia?

10. Establish which direction Japan is from the U.S.A. What direction would we travel to visit Japan? What direction would a Japanese student travel if coming to America?

11. With drawing paper and crayons, students create a compass rose. Their designs must include the four cardinal directions.

12. Formatively assess understanding of the four cardinal directions using the compass rose that the students have created. Correct any misinformation as necessary.

Day 3
1. Review the guiding question, Where is Japan? Orally and through student demonstration, review content from days 1 and 2.

2. During read-aloud time, read [Chester the Worldly Pig] by Bill Peet. This story of a pig's quest to be special ends with the design of the various continents and hemispheres on the pig's body.

3. During language arts time, add the vocabulary words northern, southern, eastern, western, and hemisphere. Compare the words north and northern, etc. This lends itself well to the study of root words and suffixes.

4. During social studies, use a globe to establish the northern and southern hemispheres. Discuss the equator as the pretend line that divides the Earth in half making the northern and southern hemispheres. Show the north and south poles on these hemispheres. Establish the hemisphere for the USA, Japan, and Australia.

5. Using a globe, establish the eastern and western hemispheres. Discuss the Prime Meridian as the line that divides the Earth in half making the eastern and western hemispheres. Establish the hemisphere for the USA, Japan, and Australia. Press the point that the only land masses in the Western Hemisphere are North and South America.

6. Formatively assess understanding of the four hemispheres by looking back at [Chester the Worldly Pig] and identifying which hemispheres and countries are shown on the various parts of Chester's body.

7. Give the Summative Assessment, Where Is Japan? What Direction Is It?- from the unit's associated files.


Formative assessments are conducted throughout the lesson. See the Procedures section for instructions on giving formative assessments and formative feedback.

Summative Assessment #1, Where Is Japan? What Direction Is It? should take students about 15 minutes to complete. Given a picture of a map, students will locate and color as directed, the United States and Japan. Students will construct a compass rose showing the four cardinal directions. Given a picture of a globe divided into the hemispheres, students will identify the four hemispheres.
This is a fourteen-item assessment. (Note that item number 6 has five parts.) Grades can be established using percent correct.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

2. Pen pal letters can be written. Pen pals can be found locally by contacting teachers from your district. A source for pen pals from a foreign country is DOD schools at These are military schools in foreign countries so English will be spoken and written. The Web link for contacting a DOD School is available from the Weblinks section of this lesson plan.

3. If a real pen-pal is not readily accessible, have a friend e-mail a mock letter to the students of your class. This will not only provide interest, but will also allow students to see what a real e-mail looks like.

4. Other books that may enhance this unit are the following:
Steig, William. [Dr. De Soto Goes to Africa]. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1982.
Baer, Edith. [This is the Way We Eat Our Lunch]. NewYork: Scholastic, 1995.
Haskins, Jim. [Count Your Way Through Japan]. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 1988.
Yashima, Taro. [Crow Boy]. New York: Viking Press, 1983.
Brown, Jeff. [Flat Stanley]. New York: Harper Trophy, 1996.
Showers, Paul. [The Bird and the Stars]. New York: Doubleday, 1975.

5. For assistance in finding the books suggested for this lesson, go to Sunlink on the Web. This site allows you to find the schools in each county that have a specific book. Follow these instructions: (1) Click the link in the Weblink section of this lesson plan, or type the URL in the address line of your browser. The URL is (2) Click the button for Begin Your Search. (3) Click the part of Florida for your county. (4) Click your specific county. (5) Type the title of the book. No other information needs to be typed here. (6) Click the Find It button. (7) Click the title of the book that appears to receive the Full Record. At the bottom of the Full Record is the location of the book. (8) Request the book from the school shown.

Web Links

Get information about the people and places of Japan.
Japan Information Network

Information on the adult level which may help prepare parents and teachers for the maps and globes
Compass Rose

Cultural Information
World Factbook

This DOE site can be used to find pen pals.
Department of Defense Education Activity

This site allows you to locate books at any school library in the state of Florida.

Students use this interactive Web lesson to learn about the four cardinal directions and to find real places on a map.
Where Is Japan?

Attached Files

A master of various compass roses     File Extension: pdf

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