Giving Directions

This lesson teaches students how to give directions in English by using a map to let students practice describe where buildings are located and then give and follow geographical directions to locate specific buildings.


  • To give students practice in describing the location of places.
  • To teach prepositions and prepositional phrases as used to describe location
  • To practice asking and answering questions about locations
  • To give authentic practice in asking for and giving directions in a town or a city


  • Map of Downtown Imagineville
  • Giving Directions Worksheet
  • A map of your town. Open Street Map ( is a great resource to print road maps of a particular town or neighborhood or even region)
  • Extra blank city maps You can use these maps to make your own exercises if you want to target particular vocabulary or give students extra practice.

Warm Up

  1. Start by asking students where you can buy good vegetables. When they give you the name of a store, ask them where it is. Listen to the problems they have giving directions in English.
  2. When students give you imprecise information, ask them to clarify or if they give wrong information, call them out on it. You might say something such as, “Next to the train station? That’s an office building, isn’t it? I can’t buy vegetables at an Italian restaurant.”
  3. Ask for a few more places. Remember to ask for the location and challenge them to be precise and accurate. This is a great chance for authentic communication with your students as you can ask for places that you genuinely want to go to. You’ll get the whole class arguing over the location and then correcting each other’s directions.

When I’m in another country, I often ask my students:

  • Where can I go to meet other expats?
  • Where can I buy macaroni and cheese?
  • Where can I buy frozen vegetables?
  • Where can I buy nice clothes?
  • Where is there a good Italian restaurant?
  • Where can I get a screwdriver? (or whatever tool or spare part I might need to fix something at home)


  1. Now hand out the Map of Downtown Imagineville. Call on students one at a time to find the locations below, eliciting the street and the corner street as well as what it is next to or across from.

Students can do this as a whole class or in small groups.


Giving Directions

Introduce giving directions by asking a few of them how to go from their home to school.

You can view a more comprehensive preview and purchase the entire lesson at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store: Where Is It? Lesson Plan: Practice Giving Directions on a Map. I always want to hear how people use these lessons in their classrooms and how I can improve my lessons, so feel free to leave me a comment here or feedback at my store!

Process Essay Graphic Organizer

This is less of a proper activity and more just sharing a Process Essay Graphic Organizer that I made. These three were made for specific readings that students were to reverse outline, but they can easily be adapted to other readings. Or just used by students to write their own essays. They aren’t anything particularly fancy but they illustrate three different ways to put together a Process Essay.

Details for the Process Essay

One of the units at school requires students to write a process essay, or a how-to essay. I found the concept was hard for the students, so I produced a lot of material to help them.

Earlier I put up one example process essay with an activity designed for Halloween. Another thing I used was incomplete instructions on something they probably don’t know how to do. The idea was to show them how to write detailed and complete instructions by showing them what incomplete instructions look like.

So I gave them a small piece of paper with this written on it:

Read the following instructions on how to register an Internet web site. Are these instructions clear? Can you follow them? Or do you need some more information?

Registering your own Internet address is easy and fun. Then you can put a webpage up with anything you want.

You need to go to a special website that registers addresses. Then you need to decide on an address for your site. There are different web addresses that end in different domains like .com, .net, and .org. So make sure you get the right one for you. And pick an awesome name because you will have that same address forever. Then you just fill in some information on that site.

Congratulations! You have your own website. Now you can put up a blog or video or pictures!

After students read the directions, I asked them what they thought. They told me the directions were great (maybe because I am the teacher and can do no wrong?). So I asked them if they were ready to register a site.
“Oh, yes,” they said unwittingly.
“Great,” said I, “Please go ahead.”

After a few blank stares, I asked them to get out their iPods or whatever and try to register a site. That elicited what I had wanted in the first place, namely:
“But teacher, we don’t know which site to go to.”
“Oh, I didn’t say which site. OK, Two popular sites are and”
“But teacher, what’s the difference?”
“Well, Godaddy costs more but provides fewer services,” I told them, making it up as I went along.
At this point, they were starting to catch on, so I asked them, “What’s the difference between .com, .org and .net? How do you pick an awesome name?”
And finally a student asked what this other information was on the form, and didn’t we have to pay any money?

To wrap up I elicited all the questions they still had on the board. Then I basically reread the paragraph with the missing information included (I could have had a better essay ready, but I didn’t know what exactly they would notice) so they had a good model.

Next time I will add a fun game a colleague mentioned to me, which is asking them to tell you how to put on your coat and following their instructions literally. It’s a chance to play Mr. Bean and it does demonstrate the need to give details and be specific (Put your RIGHT arm in the RIGHT sleeve).

The follow-up for homework was to have them write up a short description of how to do something. The next day in class, they swapped and added what they needed or wanted to know to each other’s directions.

Overall it was a fun and rewarding lesson.

Where is It? Prepositions of Place

Since my lesson plan on giving directions is so popular I thought I would write up another activity I do for teaching how to talk about where things are located. My giving directions lesson plan is focused more on practice. This lesson is more about teaching and controlled practice, so you might do this one first. It focuses on basic prepositions of location such as “next to”, “in front of”, “behind”, “near”, as well as “on”, “in”, and “at”

One of the great things about lessons on directions and how to go somewhere is that it provides a great chance for authentic conversation. You can always ask students about where they go shopping, where they got those fabulous shoes, what cafes they recommend. If you are teaching in an EFL setting, this is great for building student confidence because the students get to teach the teacher.


  • Teach prepositions of location: on+street, at+corner, opposite, near, next to, behind, in front of
  • Give students controlled practice in describing where places are in their city


Warm Up: Test Before You Teach

Because of the great potential for real conversation, I like to start this lesson by asking students where something is. This is a great way to test before you teach and see the level of the students and also it shows students how this lesson will be applied.

I like to start off by picking a stronger student and asking, “Hey, I need to get a new print cartridge for my printer (or new shoes or fresh veggies or whatever). Where do I go to get one cheap?” Let him or her answer, usually with the name of a store. Ask, “Where is that?” Whatever answer they give, play dumb (if necessary). If they give a street address, ask “Where’s that?” If they tell you it’s near the movie theater, ask where the movie theater is. Get as much language out of them as you can and open the conversation to the whole class. At the same time, note any common mistakes they make. Since the focus of this is prepositions, focus on those. Personally I advise you not to correct them at this stage because this is a warm-up exercise and it’s more interesting to see what they can do, than start teaching them now.

Teaching Prepositions

Once you get a strong idea of where the printer cartridge store is, write the name of the store on the board and under it on separate lines the prepositions: on, near, next to, at, opposite, in front of, behind.
Note: Based on the warm-up you may or may not need to demonstrate what these prepositions mean. On + street name you can probably slip by them and because it’s idiomatic, the best way to have them understand it is give them input and repetition. Also note that for British English you may want to use in+street instead of on+street.

To demonstrate the meanings of these words, start with real life objects in the classroom. And then bring it to the context of places in town.

For example, to teach “next to”, I would put a book next to a pen and say, “The book is next to the pen.” Move them together and apart a short distance and repeat, “next to”. Then you might pick two students and say, “Anna is next to Inna.”

Now ask short-answer questions like, “Who is Ivan next to?”, “Sarah, who are you sitting next to?” Once they’ve got it, ask, “What is the school next to?”,”What is your house next to?”.

You can do the same with “in front of”, “behind”, and “near”.

Whether you demonstrate or not, your board should look like this:

next to
in front of

Ask students, “So what street was Logicom on?” Write the name of the street after on.
Ask what it was near and again write the answer(s) on the board. Then ask what it was next to, what corner it’s at (if appropriate), what is opposite the store, and what it was in front of or behind and write all the answers on the board.

If you feel the students are struggling, ask students to make sentences out of the notes on the board one by one. So student one will say, “Logicom is on Oak Street.” The next might say, “It is at the corner of Main Street”, the next might say, “It is in front of the Italian restaurant.” And so on.

Now erase everything but your prepositions and pick a well-known place in town. Write it on the board and ask students one by one, “What street is it on?”, “What is it next to?” “What is it opposite?” and so on. Do this with different places as long as students need it (and as long as they don’t get bored). Then swap it around.

Pick a well-known place, erase the prepositions and put up descriptions. Let students fill in the prepositions. So for the White House, I would write:

White House
___ the Mall
___ Pennsylvania Avenue
___ the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th Street
___ the Department of the Treasury
___ the Ellipse

Let students fill in the right prepositions (near, on, at, next to, in front of in this example). Obviously you need to choose a place the students know well or they will struggle.

The Where is It Puzzle

Now hand out the Blank Map Puzzle. In this worksheet, students are given a blank map and using clues they must fill in the rest of the map. Give them some time to work it out and then go over it as a group, or have students correct each other (Answers are here).


For homework or next class, you can have students do a number of activities.

Describe their home. Have students write a short paragraph using these prepositions to describe where they live.

Precise Writing

This is a lesson that comes from my father’s writing course at Amherst College. English 1, a required course at the school in the 1940s, included the assignment to write precise, exact and complete directions on how to throw a ball. I have simply added some new ideas to this basic concept.


  • A ball
  • Possibly materials depending on what activities you ask students to describe

Warm Up

To warm up, pick up a ball and ask students to describe to you how to throw a ball. At first they will say, “Just throw it.” If this happens move the ball back and forth, or even drop it. To encourage completeness, whatever instructions the students give you, just follow. This can be a lot of fun as the students see their mistakes illustrated. If the students need help, put the ball down.

Then say “Step One” and pick up the ball. Try to elicit the words “Take the ball” or “Pick up the ball”

For advanced students, you might pick it up in some weird way and see if you can get them to describe the positions of the fingers. It sounds nitpicky but finger position is important to throwing and it encourages students to be complete.

Say “Step Two” and bring your hand up. Try to elicit “Bring your hand up”. Point to your elbow and get “Bend your elbow” or “Arm should be at a 90 degree angle.

Say “Step Three” and elicit “Bring your arm back”

Say “Step Four” and bring your arm forward quickly, eliciting some description from the students.

Say “Step Five” and snap your arm, release the ball, straighten your fingers, eliciting a last description. Obviously you have to decide if you really can throw the ball or if you will only pretend to release it. This list of 5 steps for throwing a ball could be made much more complicated and detailed with advanced students or simplified for beginner students.


This can be done in class or it can be done as homework. Ask students to pick a simple activity that can be done or imitated in class and write step-by-step directions. You might assign topics to them, in which case it’s good to pick activities that everybody knows so mistakes will instantly be corrected: Making tea, doing a leg stretch, kicking a penalty kick at football, putting oil in the car, summing up figures in Excel or making an italic heading in Word.

Obviously you can give students any task you want (or they want), even something more unusual like ballroom dancing. But ideally you will have students carry out these directions in class, so make sure that all the actions are things that can be done, or effectively mimed in the class. For more advanced students, it could be a very complicated process like drilling for oil or programming in Java. In any case, it should be something that involves several steps and has some potential missteps in it. Depending on your class set-up, recipes can be great for this because later students can follow the directions in class and then eat the experiments.

Now comes the fun part. Have students swap their directions with a partner. Now the student who wrote the directions has to follow them while his partner reads them out. As the writer performs the directions, he or she will immediately see any omissions or mistakes. Once the student has completed the activity–with any mistakes noted–the partners switch. This is a great activity to do in front of the whole class because it can be very funny and if the activity is well-known, the whole class will correct each other.

For homework, have the students fix their directions until they are precise and complete.