Supporting English as an additional language or dialect – compass

Supporting EAL/D Students


Students can:

  • demonstrate an understanding of compass direction;
  • use conventions associated with compass direction and
  • use terminology associated with compass directions.

Questions involving compass directions

Applying an understanding of compass directions to solve a problem sometimes presents difficulties for EAL/D students. To answer questions related to compass direction correctly, students need to become familiar with the concepts, conventions and terminology used while locating and orientating their position on a map. A lack of familiarity can lead students to start from the wrong place and then give the opposite direction to the one required.

The strategies in this section are associated with the substrand position in Stages 2 and 3 however is applicable to Stage 4 students as well. EAL/D students need to be able to:

  • interpret and explain information from diagrams, graphs, charts and timetables
  • transfer information from texts into given formats
  • extract and manipulate key ideas from text for problem solving
  • use a set of common specialised words (technical and non-technical terms appropriate to a topic area)
  • use simple phrases to express basic comparisons.

Activities to support the strategy


Listening tasks

Introduce compass direction vocabulary using the compass visual (PDF 103.53KB).


  • north / south / east / west
  • north-east / south-east / south-west / north-west
  • turn left / turn right / turn around
  • compass / destination / location


1. Provide the opportunity for students to develop their understanding of direction by asking them to stand on a spot and turn in the direction called out. After a number of moves, asks the students what direction they are facing. Say

  • everyone face north. Now turn to the south. Now turn around. What direction are you facing? (north)
  • everyone face north. Now turn to the west. Now turn left. What direction are you facing? (south)
  • everyone face north. Now turn to the south-west. Now turn around. What direction are you facing? (north-east)
  • everyone face north. Now turn to the south-east. Now turn right. What direction are you facing? (south-west)

View and print (PDF 33.41KB)

2. Prepare a slide using Google Maps of the local area plus individual photocopies for students showing the school and 3-4 local landmarks such as the train station, the library, local parks and local sport facilities. Prepare additional slides tracing the routes they will use in the activity.

Dictate directions from the school to a landmark, without telling the students the destination. Students listen, track the route and write down the name of the destination. After completing the activity, a student comes to the board and traces the route. Reveal a prepared slide showing the correct route.

3. Say

  • You are standing in front of the school looking due north.
  • Walk east until you come to the first intersection.
  • You will pass one street on your left before the intersection.
  • Go south-east and walk past three streets on your left.
  • Your destination is just past the third street.
  • Where are you?

View and print (PDF 29.2KB)


1. Students will individually complete a worksheet requiring them to create diagrams showing they can read and understand written directions and to write directions given a diagram. Print Showing-Directions (PDF 173.95KB) worksheet for students to complete.

Barrier Game

Resources:Locate maps for students to work from and make enough copies for a class set.

Suggested maps: local area, popular entertainment areas, for example, Taronga Park Zoo, Canberra showing major government buildings, Melbourne Docklands, national parks.

Working in pairs, each student has a copy of the same map. Student A gives student B a starting point on the map, but does not mention the destination. Student A must tell student B which way to face at the start. Student A gives directions to the destination and checks to see that student B has arrived at the correct destination.

The exercise can be repeated several times as students take turns giving and following directions.

This activity helps students practice visualisation and orientation, as well as providing practice using directional language. Students should be encouraged to use compass directions, rather than simply tell their partner to turn left / right, go straight.


Writing exercise using Google Maps: Students screen capture a map of any area of their choosing using Smart Notebook software.

They select a starting point and destination which involves a minimum of 8 instructions. They write the set instructions for getting from the starting point to the destination, using at least 4 compass directions.


Australian curriculum

ACMMG113: Use a grid reference system to describe locations. Describe routes using landmarks and directional language

NSW syllabus

MA2-17MG: Uses simple maps and grids to represent position and follow routes, including using compass directions.

MA3-17MG: Locates and describes position on maps using a grid reference system.

Teacher resources

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