World Book Logo Building Blocks

Latitude and Longitude

This activity is designed for students in 5th grade, as well as any students working on latitude and longitude and/or coordinate grids. It is intended to help students better understand how latitude and longitude can be used to describe various places on Earth. In addition to practicing map reading skills, students will have the opportunity to build connections between latitude and longitude and such mathematical concepts as coordinate grids, axes, and coordinate pairs.




Students will be able to define latitude and longitude.

Students will be able to make connections between the graticule, latitude, and longitude and a coordinate grid, x-axis, and y-axis.

Students will be able to use what they know about the graticule to read maps and identify specific locations using latitude and longitude.


• Building Blocks of Geography series, specifically Maps and Earth in Space

• Scratch paper

• Pencils

• Latitude and Longitude Worksheet (1 per student)


  1. After reading the Maps text, or after re-reading pages 22-27 of the Maps text, split students into groups of 3 or 4 (if you use table groups in your classroom, those work great!). Have groups collaborate to create working definitions of the following vocabulary terms: graticule, latitude, longitude, equator, parallels, meridians, prime meridian, degrees, minutes, and seconds. These are working definitions and do not need to be completely correct as students will continue to develop concepts about these terms throughout this activity.
  2. Bring students’ attention back to the whole group setting to review the vocabulary terms related to latitude and longitude. It may help to project a copy of these words so you can scribe students’ working definitions as they share them aloud with the class.
  3. Use the Think, Pair, Share strategy to discuss the following questions. In this strategy, students first think independently, pair with someone near them, and share their thoughts.

    a. How is the graticule similar to and different from a grid reference system?

    b. Consider the coordinate grid you know from math class. How is the graticule similar to and different from a coordinate grid?

  4. After discussing, transition to work time. Allow students a choice of working independently, in a pair, or in a small group of three members to complete the Latitude and Longitude worksheet.