ESL Lesson: Around Australia Map (Cardinal points & prepositions to describe location on a map)


This lesson teaches the cardinal points (north, south, east, west etc.) and how to describe where places on a map are in relation to one another. It places emphasis on using the correct prepositions. There is also some revision of superlative adjectives (“one of the largest rocks”, “the most easterly point”).

Australian Curriculum Links:

  • TBA

Author: James Heath
Level: Pre-Intermediate / Intermediate
Skills: Speaking, Listening
Topic area: Travel
Time: 30-45 mins
Number of students: 2-12


Write on the board “Australia”. If you are in Australia, write 3 quick discussion questions such as:

    • Which states have you been to in Australia?
    • Which cities have you visited?
    • What’s your favourite place you’ve visited in Australia? Why?
    • Which are the most famous cities or tourist sites in Australia? What are they famous for?

If you are outside of Australia, ask:

    • Have you ever been to Australia? Do you want to go?
    • Which are the most famous cities or tourist sites in Australia? What are they famous for?

Discuss the questions in groups. You will probably need to explain “famous for.” For example, Paris is famous for the Eiffel Tower, Rome is famous for the Colosseum, Australia is famous for kangaroos, etc.Body:

1) Draw the cardinal points on the board without labeling them. Ask students to name the points north, south, east, west and draw the labels on. Then continue with northeast, south-east, south-west, north-west.

2) Draw a map of Australia (or the country you are currently in) on the board and mark two cities. If you draw Australia, for example, mark Sydney and Melbourne. You will now introduce the various prepositions that the students will need to complete the map task. It will be useful to write these somewhere on the board that you can leave them while the students start the map task (then perhaps rub them off to challenge the students more).

3) Write on the board:

  • Sydney is ________ ___ Melbourne.

Ask students for ideas to fill the gaps and elicit “north-east” “of”. Now write, with students’ help:

  • Melbourne is south-west of Sydney.

3) Ask students which state Sydney is in and elicit: “Sydney is in New South Wales” and “Melbourne is in Victoria”. Write:

  • Sydney is ___ the ________ __ NSW. (Sydney is in the south-east of NSW.)
  • Melbourne is __ the _______ of Victoria. (Melbourne is in the south of Victoria.)

4) Draw an Island off the coast of Australia (or your country), for example Lord Howe Island, which is off the coast of NSW, roughly half-way between Sydney and Brisbane. (Don’t draw one of the islands that is used on the Australia map handout.)

5)  Elicit “coast” for the point where the land meets the sea. (Trace your finger along the coast of your map on the board.) Write:

  • Sydney is ___ the coast of NSW. (on)
  • Lord Howe Island is ___ the coast of NSW. (off)
  • Lord Howe Island is ___ the ______ coast of Australia. (off /east)

5) Draw in Perth and Darwin. Ask “Where is Perth?” and accept (and write on the board if necessary) correct answers, such as “It’s on the west coast of Australia” / “It’s in W.A.” / “It’s in the south-west of W.A./Australia” / “It’s west of Sydney”. Do the same thing for Darwin to reinforce the prepositions.

6) Write the following two questions on the board:

  • Where is ___________?
  • What’s it famous for?

7) Split students into pairs and hand out one copy of map A to one student in each pair and one copy of map B to the other. Tell students not to look at each other’s maps and enforce that they don’t. (You could sit each pair facing each other so it’s less
tempting to cheat.)

8) Draw students’ attention to the lower-left box on the map and explain that they need to find out where the places in the box are, and why they are famous, by asking their partner questions 1 and 2 from the board. When they find out they need to write the name of the place and why it’s famous in the correct blank space on their map.

9) Monitor and help with any questions or vocabulary students need. You may need to explain “world heritage listed national park” (on the UNESCO world heritage list of protected forests).

10) Once students have talked about all the different places on their maps they can look at each other’s maps to check.

11) Join pairs together to make groups of 4 to discuss the following questions:

  • Have you been to any of the places on the map? Describe them.
  • Which places would you most like to go to? Why?
  • If you had one month to travel around Australia, where would you go?



  • Anecdotal
  • Verbal recordings
  • Quiz on the words used in the discussions (e.g. Melbourne)




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