4. The Compass, an Ancient Instrument Still Used in a Modern World

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Create a working compass by floating a magnetized paperclip and allowing it to rotate freely so the clip becomes lined up with Earth’s magnetic field.

Big Idea

A compass is an instrument that works because of the Earth's magnetic field.


1 minutes

Warm up

5 minutes

A compass has been used for thousands of years, but with the invention of the GPS, most students don't know how to use them. I started this lesson with a video to help explain the what and the why behind compass use.

Guided practice

15 minutes

I created a PowerPoint, Earth is a Giant Magnet, to help guide my students through this lesson that required them to create their own models of a compass as well as answer fundamental questions when challenged with what should  happen. We've been learning about magnets and the students have a pretty good grasp on the fundamentals, but I wanted them to be able to apply what they had learned. 


20 minutes

This lesson required that my students follow instructions precisely in order for the investigation to work, this is why I created the Compass Focus Page. The focus page contains sentence frames to help my students write a hypothesis. This along with the PowerPoint I created helped me touch upon different learning styles and I felt that this helped my students better understand the concepts. Once the investigation was completed, it is imperative that students reflect or interpret what has happened, if not, I think that they don't make that connection to the real world that is so important. I created Make Your Own Compass Results Page to help them verbalize whether their hypothesis was accurate, and if not, why not.  I regularly have my students reflect by completing a results page and this practice of evaluating their work has transferred over into other subjects as well.

Class Discussion/Wrap Up

15 minutes

Reflecting on what we learned becomes easier with the use of a modified Round Table Discussion Compass Question, I created this one so that I could gauge if my students understood the concept. The first time I tried it in my class I didn't collect the pages and I noticed that some students didn't give it their best, but now I collect them and I find that it has helped my students become more responsible for their work. I always use the same procedure, 1 page, 1 pencil, 1 question, 2 minutes per students in the group. For homework, I gave my students two assignments one was an article "Sea turtles find their spot in the beach" from www.newsela.com. This site offers different reading levels of the same article. It is a wonderful resource for differentiation. The other assignment was one question Homework Question GPS vs Map and Compass, which gave me insight into their grasp of the concept.