How to Teach Children About Cardinal Directions

Written by jessica cook
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Elementary students can understand the basics about cardinal directions when they learn about them in a kid-friendly way. Start your cardinal direction lesson by explaining the relationship between the four directions, and then let the children begin to explore the idea of finding their way around using those directions. With a variety of educational activities to suit every child's learning style, you can introduce the concept of cardinal directions in your classroom.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Construction paper and markers
  • Song lyrics
  • Computer with Internet access
  • LCD projector
  • Small toy

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  1. 1

    Put up visual aids in your classroom for the four cardinal directions: north, east, south and west. Place a sign with the name of one direction on each wall; on the east wall, add a cutout of the sun with an arrow pointing up to show the sunrise, and on the west wall put a cutout of the sun with an arrow pointing down to show the sunset. Now your classroom can become a tool for teaching the cardinal directions.

  2. 2

    Rearrange your classroom so that all of the seats face the north wall. This will make it easier for your students to practice with the cardinal directions. Explain to them that there are four main directions a person can go: north, east, south and west. Show them how you have labelled these directions on the walls.

  3. 3

    Have the students stand up in their seats so they can become living compasses. Ask them to point forward; this is north. Then have them point to the right, the rear, and the left, explaining the directions they're pointing. Repeat this for a while and then play a version of Simon Says where you tell them to point in a variety of directions and see how many can get it right.

  4. 4

    Play a song about the cardinal directions. You can find one online at if you do not already have one. Some children learn better when they have a song or a rhyme to help them memorise information like this.

  5. 5

    Hook up your computer to the LCD projector and show the students National Geographic's online orientometer. Have them help you point and click on the correct directions by asking them which colour you should click if you want north, south, northeast, and the other directions. Also use this time to explain to them that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and show them the sun signs on those walls.

  6. 6

    Play a cardinal direction scavenger hunt game. Ask one student to go in the hallway, and hide a small toy in your room. The other students must direct the student from the hallway to find the hidden toy, telling him only which cardinal direction to go. Play this a few times, letting other children have a turn giving and receiving directions.

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