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Dead Reckoning III

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: War of 1812

Grade Level: 4-8

Common Core Standards
Measurement and Data
• Solve problems involving measurement
• Represent and interpret data

Content Areas: Math, Social Studies

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minutes

Learning Goals: Students will practice plotting points on a grid. Students will practice identifying directions and distances. Students will become familiar with charts of various historic bodies of water.


  1. Read aloud or have students read independently the background article about traditional navigation. Discuss how “dead reckoning” was the primary method of determining a ship’s position between sightings of land or a celestial observation.
  2. Discuss the importance of dead reckoning as a means of determining a ship’s position and as a record of its travels. All changes of course and distances traveled were recorded in a ship’s log book.
  3. Divide students into groups of 2-4 and have them sit together so that they all can see their chart clearly.
  4. Decide if all students will use the same chart, or if groups of students will use different charts for the activity. Distribute the charts and course log entries and give a general orientation to where each body of water is, how large an area is represented on the chart, the orientation of the compass rose.
  5. Explain that each group will be given a starting port and a logbook record of the course the ship took. The group will plot the course on their chart to determine the destination, distance and time traveled.
  6. After each group has identified their destination, have them share where they ended up and how long it took them to get there. If time permits, share the short description of the events that took place during the War of 1812 at their destination.

Assessments: Collect charts to determine completeness and accuracy.

Materials/Resources: Charts and Course Log Entries (Lake Champlain, Lake Erie, Chesapeake Bay); Rulers

Special Considerations: Students challenged by special awareness or graphing should be grouped with more able partners.

Extensions: Students might want to chart their own route between destinations on their chart. Headings and distances should be recorded. Rather than have the teacher share information about the destinations on the charts, students could research independently the events that took place there during the War of 1812.