Friday, December 19, 2008

Teaching Azimuth and Using a Compass Rose

So, all your students have made a Clinometer. Now what do you do?

Well, first you have to teach altitude and azimuth, but because they have made their Clinometers, they are more likely to pay attention while you teach the basics.

I would recommend holding off teaching how to use the Clinometers for a bit. Teach how to use a compass first.


If you are lucky, you will have a class set of compasses, maybe even orienteering compasses. The most fun? Everyone has their own compass. Even small, cheap ones, just enough for everyone!

Have your students help push the room's tables or desks toward the center of the room. Have everyone stand in a ring around the outside of the room.

Run them through a series of review exercises. Start with lining the needle up with north, of course. Ask them to point to north. Then have them all point to the east, the west, the south, etc. Then try for the fancier ones, like southwest, southeast, etc. If they do well with this, throw in south-southwest and see if anyone knows these, or can work it out.

During this session, have volunteers stick large printed labels of the various compass points on the classroom walls. My classroom was not facing true north so the walls were all the southeast, northwest. North was in a corner. Made it easier to have them up for my students. Use sticky putty on the backs of the labels. Take them down at the end of each class so the next can put them up, too. You can leave them up after your last class leaves.

Now, here's the really fun part. REALLY TEACH AZIMUTH! Make sure your students are evenly spaced around the edge of the room and in a circle of sorts. Run through a tough, quick review of what you just reviewed and add on:
  1. Raise your hand if you are at north. (Should only be one hand up. If no one is perfectly north, have one move into that position.)
  2. What degrees is the North person? (If no one knows, ask them to guess. Don't tell them outright. Lead them by asking how many total degrees in a circle, and so on. They should see that North is both 0 and 360.)
  3. Move on to South. Raise your hand if you are at South.
  4. What degrees is the South person?
  5. Repeat for East and West.
  6. Move on to northeast, southeast, northwest, southwest.
  7. Go over all again. This time have everyone point to the representative person. Always ask for degrees and compass point.
  8. Try a couple of the south-southwest or north-northwest, etc., but don't do much if they are on overload.
  9. NOW have everyone walk a quarter turn around the room. Go over many of them again.
  10. Repeat again if they can handle it. Otherwise move on to the worksheet.
NOTE: We will do this type of Virtual Compass tomorrow, only use altitude in the sky instead. When you put them together, you really have something, my friends! I've give the details on these variations in the coming days.

After you think your class understands the compass points and degrees, have them sit down and give them all this worksheet which reviews what you've just covered.


You can do something similar using paper compass roses. Click here for a good one you can have your first class glue the entire page onto cardboard. Smooth carefully. (You now have a complete set for the rest of the year. Just be sure to number them and collect back each hour.)

Click here for a fun Compass Rose review worksheet that uses a world map. Click here for a blank one from Enchanted Learning. Click here for another good review page.

With a Compass Rose, you need to masking-tape or chalk a north-south line on your floor or in the parking lot or on the concrete playground. Your students put their compass roses on the north-south line, all norths facing north and move themselves around the rose, always looking at the direction from across the rose. Works great if you don't have compasses!

Run your students through a review similar to the above. It will be slightly different but they should all be moving around their compasses. Stand on the point would be in the correct position. Look to the northwest, they would be standing southeast looking to the northwest. NOTE: You may need several north-south lines on the floor/pavement so they all have room to walk around their roses.

Click here for the complete Teaching Azimuth by Using a Compass or Compass Rose Pdf! (Coming soon.)

Come back tomorrow for How to Teach Altitude and Using a Clinometer.

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