How can you teach about latitude and longitude?

Ideas to Teach Latitude and Longitude

Teaching what latitude and longitude is must be done before the students start using them on a map to find an absolute location. Below are the definitions:

  • Latitude: —imaginary east-west lines in the grid measuring the distance north and south of the equator
  • Longitude: —imaginary North-South lines that pass through the poles. They measure distance east and west of the prime meridian

After I introduce vocabulary words like latitude and longitude I like to have the students do one to three activities. They consist of and also differentiate instruction with three different versions of vocabulary sheets:

  • writing the definitions of latitude and longitude in their own words
  • draw a picture that represents latitude and longitude
  • write sentences using the vocabulary words latitude and longitude correctly to show understanding

After the students do the above part of the geography lesson plan, I reintroduce latitude and longitude in a totally different way. This time, I use kinesthetic and spatial multiple intelligence learning styles. I have students lay down on the floor to represent the latitude lines. I have students stand up straight to represent a longitude line. I then reintroduce latitude and longitude again and connect it to background knowledge. I bring in a ladder and a Santa Claus. I have the Santa climb up the ladder steps and tell the students that these are the latitude lines and Santa is going to the North Pole. Then I have him slide down the side of the ladder and explain to the students that Santa has a long slide down from the North Pole to the equator on a longitude line.

After students understand what latitude and longitude it, they can then use it correctly in an activity. To get an idea of an activity to help students use latitude and longitude to find an absolute location click here. (If it’s not here yet, it will be soon) offers this as part of their differentiated instruction geography lesson plan.

Written by,

Kasha Mastrodomenico (Connect with me on

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