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Pirate Map & Body Skills Lesson Plan

Author: Cassie Walker

Year: 2015

Artform: Drama

Subjects: Social Studies

Grade: 1st, 2nd

Duration: 45 minutes

Overview: Ahoy, mateys! Be ye bold enough to find the buried treasure? Make sure not to mix up yer North, South, East, and West, or ye may end up in a pirate trap! Beware: dead men tell no tales...

Standards and Objectives

Develop body awareness and spatial perception through movement and pantomime.

Express personal experiences and imagination through dance, storytelling, music, and visual art.

2b. Locate physical features (i.e. continents, oceans, rivers, lakes), and man-made features (equator, North and South poles, countries) on a map and on a globe.

2c. “Identify the compass rose and cardinal directions on a map and on a globe.”


2a. “Identify and use information on a map and on a globe (e.g., map key or legend, simple grid systems, physical features, compass rose).
  • Students will use their bodies to create map elements: mountains, swamps, paths, traps, etc.
  • Students will use a compass rose and cardinal directions in the classroom to place their bodies in the correct place on the “map.”
  • Students will use map skills and body perception to recreate a 2-dimensional map with their bodies.



Game: Pirate Attack/Captain’s Coming

(5-10 minutes) Many teachers play different versions of this game. The teacher (captain) calls out a command and students follow the command. Some commands I use are:

  • Captain’s Coming: Students salute and say “Captain, my Captain!”
  • Swab the Deck: Students mop and say “Swab swab swab...” (Can add adaptations: Swab the deck like you’re swimming in Jello, swab the deck with a spaghetti noodle, swab the deck in slow motion, etc.)
  • Dead Rats: Everyone falls on the floor in a dead rat pose. (Great opportunity to give instructions - they are all quiet)
  • Port: The ship tilts left. Everyone takes 3 steps to the left, saying “Whoa!”
  • Starboard: The ship tilts right. Everyone runs to the right, saying “Whoa!”
  • Lighthouse: Groups of 2 hold hands and spin around sloooowly.
  • Man Overboard: Groups of 3. Two hold hands, trapping the third one inside and bouncing him gently between the arms.
  • Octopus: Groups of 4, back-to-back, waving arms like octopus tentacles. Grub: Groups of 5, eating in a circle, saying “Grub grub grub...”

Feel free to add your own commands, or run a quick internet search; there are thousands more out there!


Game: Four Corners (using cardinal directions instead of corners)

(5-10 minutes) Pirates used a compass to find their way across the ocean. Post a cardinal direction on each wall in your classroom: North, South, East, and West.

Just like pirates used these four directions long ago, we still use the same directions to navigate today. Play “four corners” using the cardinal directions. (Visit for instructions)


Project a pirate map, like the one from First Grade Pirate Life. (Credit: Kelly Stephenson of


(10 minutes) How do pirates use the map to find their treasure? Help students identify the key and compass rose, and tell how to use them to identify locations on the map and match them to locations around you.

For each object in the key, ask the students to show how they would create that landmark with their bodies. This way, every student will have a chance to be a treasure, a trap, a swamp, etc. before the application.

Coach students to think creatively by asking questions like:

  • “Is there another way to make a tree?”
  • “Can you make a trap with 2 or 3 people?”


(15 minutes) Call students one by one or by small groups to use the map and cardinal directions to recreate the map with their bodies on the floor. They may use fabric or props to represent water, the land, the mountains, etc.

Don’t tell them where to go, but coach them to use the cardinal directions posted on each wall. Ask questions like:

  • “Is that swamp on the north or south side of the island?”
  • “Is the mountain east or west of the lake?”


(5 minutes) If available, use an iPad and document camera, snap a picture and show the students the map they’ve made. Compare it to the original map, and make adjustments if necessary. If the technology is not available, call students up a few at a time to observe and evaluate the finished “body map.”


Avoid telling the students where to go or how to create each landmark. Students will learn best when they integrate their kinesthetic movement with the logical placement of the cardinal directions themselves.
  • How do I read a map?
  • What is a key?
  • What is a compass rose?
  • How do the pictures on the map correspond to landmarks in the real world?
Adapt as necessary for students with individual abilities and needs.
  • Compass rose
  • Map key
  • North
  • South
  • East
  • West
  • Cardinal directions
  • Body awareness
  • Spatial perception
Navigators have used the same four cardinal directions for hundreds of years. As more and more explorers discovered more places, they needed a way to tell others how to get there.
Is the finished “body map” the same as the projected pirate map?


  • Smart board/projector
  • Pirate map
  • Labels of each wall: north south east west
  • Fabrics to represent water, soil, greenery, etc.
  • Props to use for traps and treasure
  • Optional: iPad and document camera