Latitude and longitude is one of those concepts that not all students are able to grasp right away. Lucky for you, there are a ton of fun and engaging strategies that can give your students multiple ways to practice. Keep reading to learn about some of my favorite latitude and longitude practice activities that I’ve used in my classroom, as well as how to get your FREE Batman latitude and longitude coordinate puzzle.
Students already love it when they get to play games in school, but they especially love getting to play battleship with a friend. I created my own latitude and longitude battleship template that I let students play throughout the year. The game allows students to practice giving coordinates using the correct order (latitude before longitude) and helps them remember which is which. Battleship is one of my go-to activities when a lesson doesn’t take as long as I thought it would and we have a weird amount of time left before the bell rings. I also leave a few copies of the game in my sub folder in case students finish their work early and need something to occupy their time so they don’t cause mischief. The directions are included right on the battleship template, so students can always refresh themselves on the directions if needed.
Hands-On Latitude and Longitude Activities
Students love an interactive demonstration of latitude and longitude, and oranges and balloons are great tools for making this happen. Although I’ve never done it, pumpkins can be used for this too!
Latitude and Longitude Oranges
Oranges are fun because:
- they have easily identifiable areas that can represent the north and south poles and you can poke toothpicks through them to talk about the tilt of the earth’s axis
- you can draw on them with Sharpies
- you can peel them and try to lay the peels flat to represent the difficulty of mapping a round object (Earth) on a flat, two dimensional surface like a map
- the insides of the orange have natural longitude lines and you can split the orange in half to represent hemispheres
- and you can enjoy them as a tasty snack when you’re done!
However, I’ve also found that there are a few reasons why you wouldn’t want to use oranges. If you have 150+ students like I did, it can be expensive to provide everyone with an orange! If you go this route, I actually recommend using clementines instead. They’re smaller, cheaper, and easier to peel!
Another issue with oranges (and clementines) is that they’re difficult to write on! Even with new Sharpies, the ink doesn’t show up clearly. Oranges also tend to be a little sticky and messy when you peel them, so expect to have to clean desks and hands before and after the activity.
Latitude and Longitude Balloons
I personally prefer to use balloons for teaching latitude and longitude instead! Although they come with their own classroom management issues (blowing them up, noise, accidental poppings, etc.), they’re cheaper and much easier to write on.
I had my students label the Prime Meridian, Arctic circle, Antarctic circle, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and the Equator. We also discussed how the very top of the balloon represents the North Pole and the tie at the bottom represents the South Pole. It helps to only fill the balloon with a little air to keep it round instead of oblong. Depending on the age group you’re working with, you can also have students draw continents and label oceans. And as long as it’s not too windy, this is a really fun activity that you can do outside!
I LOVE latitude and longitude coordinate puzzles for a few reasons. First, they are super fun and engaging for students. They love trying to figure out what their shape is going to be as they plot latitude and longitude coordinates. I love them as a teacher because it’s very easy to see which students have mastered using lat & long coordinates and those that are still struggling. Another cool feature of the puzzles is that they can be easily differentiated.
A simple puzzle like this star is great for younger students or those that need a little more scaffolding. An advanced puzzle like this Halloween-themed Jack-O-Lantern is perfect for students who want to push themselves. I’ve created a ton of these practice puzzles because my students loved them so much, including themed puzzles for different holidays, some continents, and all 50 U.S. states.
Latitude and Longitude Map Game
This game is also an excellent no-prep activity that you can use for random amounts of time left in class. All you need is a class set of maps! I divided the class into multiple teams and would call out the latitude and longitude coordinates of major cities. One student from each team would go head to head to see who could identify the city first, earning their team a point. At the end of the game, the team with the most points would get bragging rights and occasionally a small gift like a sticker or piece of candy. It’s fun to mix things up every once in a while by calling a city and having the students provide the coordinates.
Have you tried any of these latitude and longitude activities in your classroom? I’d love to hear about your experiences or any other ideas you have in the comments below!