Latitude & Longitude Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Want to help your students develop stronger latitude and longitude skills? This lesson contains several ideas for fun and engaging map-reading activities.

Latitude and Longitude: A Grid System

Students often have a hard time understanding the latitude and longitude system of locating places on Earth. It is often helpful to have them think back to math class and graphing. Latitude and longitude are a grid system just like the x,y coordinate system!

There are some differences in how these grid systems are used, though, so it's a good idea to engage students with as many hands-on and minds-on activities as you can in order for them to develop strong map-reading skills. The activities below are designed to get students thinking deeply about latitude and longitude. They are all flexible enough to be modified based on students' needs.

Latitude and Longitude Practice Warm-up Activity

As basic as this one may seem, it is a great first step toward helping students develop strong map-reading skills. Each day, as a warm-up, have students locate a spot on the world map based on a latitude and longitude reading you provide. Or, you can have them figure out the latitude and longitude based on a city you provide. This quick and simple activity will help them activate prior learning and focus them on the lesson at hand.

Latitude and Longitude Dart Game

To give latitude and longitude a fun spin, create a dart board that has a world map on it. You can do this in a number of ways, including putting a world map on a magnetic surface and buying (or making) magnetic darts. Have students throw a dart at a location, then go to the front of the class and name its coordinates. This is a great way to help students get better at figuring out latitude and longitude quickly and accurately.

Latitude and Longitude Partner Practice

This is another very simple activity, but can have profound learning effects. Have students pair up and give them each a world map. Taking turns, have students select a location on their map and call out the latitude and longitude of that location. Their partner will then use the latitude and longitude to find the location and call out its name (or point to it and have the first student verify). They will then switch and go back and forth until the activity is complete. This is a great way to capitalize on cooperative learning.

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