Longitude and Latitude —What?

When I hear the words longitude and latitude I do not think of third grade students. I do not think of any elementary students, but the Georgia Performance Standards say otherwise. In third grade students are supposed to be introduced to longitude and latitude. I am not quite sure what the standards mean by introduce, but I do understand that students do not have to master the skill of using longitude and latitude to locate items on a map. That being said, how do I teach longitude and latitude to my students?

I introduce the words with a song.

 I play this song several times throughout the week and have the students do the hand motions with me during the song. They LOVE it!

We then practice on the SMARTboard together. I pull a map up on the board that will have some lines of latitude and longitude marked on it. We talk about some strategies for finding locations based on their lines of latitude and longitude (BTW- every time I say latitude or longitude I move my arms like the teacher in the video…it may feel silly and seem repetitive, BUT it helps the kids remember). Some great maps can be found here (only one is free, sorry.). We have 2 strategies:

1) Fill in the numbers in between the labeled lines of latitude and longitude. SO, if the lines at 30 degrees and 40 degrees we would write in 31, 32, 33, …

2) Drawing lines on the map when we are given a line of latitude and longitude to help us see where they cross. SO, if the lines are 33 degrees north and 121 degrees west we would draw a line from the written in 33 and another line from our written in 113. We then would look at which city is close to or at where our lines cross. Make sure to tell your students to make the lines we are drawing in parallel to the already existing lines (Great tie to MATH!).

L and L strategies

We also practiced in our textbook. There are two pages in the book dedicated to longitude and latitude with a great map of the United States. Although this is not a ton of practice it is a good way to assess after the first introduction to the idea.

We also added some things to our journals. My favorite was:

Journal Entry

This is just a small, simple reminder for students.

My favorite activity for longitude and latitude is BATTLESHIP. I found a Battleship board on teachers pay teachers here for FREE! I printed two per student and glued them to file folders. I then had them laminated. To see the details about the rest of BATTLESHIP see the highlights on my school’s website here.

After BATTLESHIP not only did my students think I was the coolest person ever, but my students also had a much better understanding of longitude and latitude and how to find things using these invisible lines.

When I did this set of lessons I did not give both classes the strategies discussed in the first part of this post. I wanted to do a little informal research to determine if these strategies were useful for the students. The results of the assessment used in both classes were night and day. The morning class were not given the strategies of writing in the numbers in between the labeled lines of latitude and longitude. They were also not told to draw lines on the map. We simply talked about finding about where the numbers would be and sliding our fingers on the imaginary lines until they intersected. The afternoon class was given both strategies and what a difference it made.

By looking at the assessment results I found the strategies given to the afternoon group were useful and successful strategies for third grade students to use when finding places on a map using lines of latitude and longitude. After discovering this I did go back and give the morning group the strategies and reassess their understanding. Their scores were much improved and I comfortably can say that we have been INTRODUCED (I still don’t really know what the standards mean by that…I will continue to look into that for you) to latitude and longitude well now.

Below are the results of the two classes assessment for latitude and longitude:

Morning Class

Afternoon Class

Student # Assessment Score Student # Assessment Score
1 57 1 100
2 43 2 100
3 29 3 100
4 100 4 100
5 14 5 100
6 71 6 86
7 57 7 100
8 14 8 100
9 86 9 86
10 71 10 100
11 14 11 100
12 100 12 100
13 0 13 100
14 71 14 57
15 100 15 86
16 86 16 86
17 29 17 57
18 100 18 43
19 71 19 0
20 86 20 43
21 86 21 86
22 100
Class Average 62.95 Class Average 82.38
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2 thoughts on “Longitude and Latitude —What?

  1. Pingback: Teaching with Songs | shiningthelightinthirdgrade

  2. Pingback: Battleship | shiningthelightinthirdgrade

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