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Teacher-Created Lesson Plan

Compare Digital vs. Analogue Compasses

Students will compare and contrast the two types of compasses
Brad M.
Technology coordinator
Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy - Upper School
Melbourne, United States
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My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Arts, World Languages, Health & Wellness

Students will be able to...

Identify cardinal directions.

Discus the differences between digital and analogue compasses.

State which type of compass they prefer and why.

Demonstrate mastery of both types of compasses at the conclusion of the lesson. 


Social Studies
Grades 3 – 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook/Attention Getter

Activity: Investigating

Familiarize yourself with the operation of an analogue compass and the Commander Compass (or app of your choosing) app before hand. Show both items to the students at the beginning or you unit on direction and instruct them in the use of the compasses. Have some "points of reference" from your campus in mind to locate.

Student Instructions

You will be given an analogue compass and an iPad compass app. Familiarize yourself with both. We will attempt to identify the four cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West) as well as some familiar locations around campus as you learn to operate both types of compasses. 

2 Direct Instruction

Activity: Investigating

This is when you will teach students how to use the compasses. Explain that the red needle is magnetic and points North. Some vocabulary terms may be cardinal directions, inter-cardinal directions, and magnetic North. Point our some advantages and disadvantages of both (i.e. Analogue may be less accurate, but digital requires a strong satellite signal and battery power). Make sure you have some space and be aware of those with special needs and physical limitations. 

Student Instructions

Hold the compass steady and even in your hand. Align the red needle with the "N" on the compass which stands for "North." Hold your compass steady and point out the other cardinal directions. Remember to think about the differences between the two types of compasses you will be using. 

3 Guided Practice

Activity: Exploring

I recommend using analogue devices one day and digital devices the second day. Take the students outside and have them identify the 4 cardinal directions (N, S, E, and W).  Next have them identify the direction of some local landmarks or points of reference (Example - we are near the beach which is East, so most students are familiar with that concept). 

Student Instructions

Use your compass to identify the 4 cardinal directions. We will also identify the direction of some familiar landmarks. Keep in mind the differences between the two types of devices you will be using.  

4 Independent Practice

Activity: Exploring

Allow students to explore independently with their compasses in an outside area or gym, cafeteria, or other space. Move about the room and ask questions like "In which direction is our classroom located?" or "Do find the analogue or digital compass easier to use? Why?"

Student Instructions

You will be given 15 minutes to explore the area with your compass. I will be circulating around the room asking you about the cardinal directions and which compass you prefer and why. 

5 Wrap-Up

Activity: Assessing

This is where you will have to differentiate and know what is best for your students, but generally we have the students stand up and determine a cardinal direction with the compass of their choice (analogue or digital). They are then asked to state why the preferred one over the other (they may use a notes for assistance). Ask them probing questions along the way. 

Student Instructions

The final assessment for this lesson is for you to find one of  the cardinal directions when requested and state which type of compass you prefer, analouge or digital, and why. I may ask you questions about using compasses during this time.