Kivunim: Maps and Directions in Tanakh

  • 40 minutes
  • Grades: 4-6
  • Lesson Plan

by: Semadar Goldstein

Students learn about maps and directions and apply that knowledge to a Biblical text.


This is a general lesson on directions and can be linked to many texts. You may wish to incorporate this lesson with the Biblical text of your choice which discusses directions. Here are some options:

° Bereshit 13:12-18 (Brit Bein Habetarim)

° Devarim 3:23-29 (Moshe viewing Eretz Israel)

° Bamidbar 2:1-9, 10-17, 18-24, 25-31 (Mivneh Machaneh Yisrael)

° Any conquering of land in Sefer Yehoshua. Choose where Bnei Yisrael are camping, see where they are about to embark and go from there.

In this case, the lesson will relate to Sefer Yehoshua 12. This chapter is often overlooked because of its limited content. This lesson will help make the chapter come alive and help in engaging the students.

Lesson objectives

Students will be able to:
1) List the areas/kings which were conquered.
2) Identify directions in modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew, and English
3) Explain the reasons behind the names of the directions in modern and biblical Hebrew
4) Relate their knowledge about directions to the Biblical text used in this lesson.


Students will be able to:
1) Identify maps of Israel.
2) Locate certain features on a map of Israel (e.g. Negev desert, Mediteranean Sea).


Students will:
1) Appreciate that every word in the Torah has a meaning

Resources & Equipment needed

Overhead projector and 3 different colored markers, photocopies of a Biblical map of Israel (the map the appendix relates to this lesson only, for Yehoshua 12).


I. Teacher Preparation: before lesson: 1. Secure overhead projector. 2. Photocopy Biblical map of Israel that relates to your text selection. Daat Mikra series recommended. 3. Obtain red, blue, and green overhead projector markers. 4. Write on index cards or placards ימה וקדמה צפונה ונגבה in red,צפון מזרח מערב דרום in green and North South East West in blue. Laminate to preserve for future use if desired. Attach scotch tape or “Blu-Tack” onto the backs of the cards. Different colored chalk may be used instead of placards. 5. Cut out a huge sun and moon from bristol board. Laminate if desired. 6. Make two copies of the skit (see below, section II). 7. G) Blackboard setup: Large map symbol (two perpendicular lines) 8. H) Overhead projector setup: Set up the overhead projector with Biblical map projected.

II. Class Opening – Trigger (2 minutes): Choose two students to act out the following skit.

Sara, rising from bed: Oh! The sun is out already? But I want to go back to sleep!

Sun: Well, I’m up, so why shouldn’t you be?

Sara: Because I’m tired!

Sun: You can sleep later! I won’t be here all day!

Sara: Sure you will, that’s your job! Sun: Well, I suppose that’s true, but don’t you like daytime? Everything is so shiny and yellow!

Sara: Maybe for you it is. For me, the good part about daytime is that it always goes away. Hey, where do you go when it’s night here?

Sun: Come with me and see!

III. Student Reading and Activity I – Review and Map locations 1. Distribute map. Choose location. Ask students to find it. Use the overhead projector to assist the class in locating spots. Call students up to you to help. 2. Read Yehoshua 12 (or your chosen text selection –see note above) and note the verses where directions (e.g. verse 3) or location are mentioned. 3. Choose other locations that appear in the verses. Ask students to locate these relative to the first and to explain if it is North, South, West or East of the first location.

IV. Student Activity II – Directions (10 minutes): 1. Tell students to draw a small map symbol on lower right corner of their maps and label each direction in English in blue. In their notebooks, they should draw a large map symbol. The map diagram on the board should serve as an example. 2. Show them English direction placards, labeled: North, South, West and East. Ask: where do they go on the diagram on the board? Call up 2 students to stick two directions on board. Tell students to write English directions in their notebooks in blue as well. 3. What is the word for “directions” in modern Hebrew? כיוונים . Ask if anyone knows how to say the four directions in Hebrew. If they do, call them up to the board and have them stick on modern Hebrew placards: צפון, דרום, מזרח, מערב . If they don’t know, choose students to stick placards on board while indicating where they belong. They should write these on their map in green. The Torah has different words for מזרח, מערב and דרום. Call up a student to stick on placards of ימה קדמה נגבהin red. Students should copy directions in the same colors as you have displayed. Leave a box in each corner to draw a simple picture to illustrate meaning of direction. See appendix for blackboard setup.

V. Q & A (10 minutes): Use the following in question-answer form. Tell the students to remember all the pictures, and their meaning, because they will play a game based on this information afterwards. *מזרח – What is the root of מזרח? See if students are familiar withזורח or זרח . if not, tell them it means shining. What shines? Take out the large sun. Where does the sun begin shining in the morning? Stick sun onto eastern side of blackboard. Morning arrives when the sun begins to shine and peeps out over the horizon. קדם means first. Ask the class:Why do you think East, מזרח is called קדם? A: Because you first see the sun from the east; the sun appears in the east first. Accept a variety of correct responses. Let’s write 1st in the box next to east. * דרום- What word/place do you recognize in נגבה? Where is the Negev in Israel? If the students do not know, locate it on the map. The Negev is a desert. Ask the class: How many of you have been to Eilat? Was it hot? Is the sun stronger or weaker in a desert? Use thumb up/thumb down to receive answers. Move sun to Negev. Here the sun is the strongest in midday. It’s so hot, people feel like the sun has moved right into their backyard. דרום = to live and דר=גר. Ask students for their ideas of a visual to represent this or suggest : a house in the box next to דרום because it’s so hot, it’s as if the sun lives in this area. * מערב – Why is מערב called מערב? What word do you recognize in the word מערב? A: ערב. What does that mean? Evening/twilight. What color is twilight? Grayish. לערב is to mix. Twilight is a mixture of day and night. Therefore, where is the sun going in this direction? A: down. Stick the sun in the west. The most beautiful sunset is often over the water. Why is מערב also called ימה? Because the sun sets over the water in the west. Which body of water is in the west of Israel? A: Mediterranean . Ask students for their ideas of a visual or suggest : draw waves in the box next to מערב representing a) the waves of the Mediterranean b) the mixture of day and night. * צפון – There is a holiday, when we stay up really late at night with our families and guests and we hide something and the children find it, and they usually get a present for finding it. What holiday is it? Allow for excitable responses – Pesach, the seder, afikoman,etc. What is that part of the seder called? A: צפון –Tzafoon. Write Tzafoon and Tzafon – with nikud on the board. Show similarities between the words. Tzafoon is named for the action we are doing during that part of the seder. What is it that we are doing? A: hiding the afikoman. צפון comes from the word להצפין , which means to hide. After the sun sets in the מערב, where does it go? A: into ‘hiding’ – it rises in a different place. Discuss a place with a time zone different to yours which has sunrise when you have nighttime. Stick sun onto north. Ask students for their ideas of a visual or suggest: an afikoman. Draw an afikoman in the box next to צפון because it is hidden like the sun at night.

VI. Kivunim: Relay Race Direction Game (8-10 minutes).If there is more time, the students can play for longer. Tell them will play more tomorrow, if they behave. Line up class into North, South, East, and West, placing one quarter of class in each corner of the room. Ask a question about a direction. The first student in the row has to run to that direction and tap hand of student in front of that row and then return to back row of his direction and stand like a soldier at attention. Once the first student has returned to back of his team’s row, the whole team must shout out the name of the direction to which he has just run, which is also the answer to the question (Biblical word or modern Hebrew is OK, as long as they get it right). The team acquires a point, which is charted on board by teacher or by another student who doesn’t wish to play.

Sample game questions: Go when I say כיוון…? 1. We are reminded of this direction when we look for the afikoman (צפון) 2. The sun rises here (מזרח) 3. The sun is hidden here (צפון) 4. When the sun is here, there is a mixture of day and night (מערב) 5. The Mediterranean is on this side (ימה) 6. First up sees it here (מזרח קדמה) 7. Here is a mixture of day and night (מערב) 8. The Israeli desert is down here (נגבה)

BONUS QUESTIONS: 5 POINTS EACH! Ask 2 questions about the locations first charted in the beginning of the class. Answers may be two directions, such as south east. Students must hit two directions and his team must shout out first one direction and then the other.

VII. Conclusion (2 minutes): T: The first team to return quickly and quietly to their seats get an additional point. I will announce the winning team and you may give yourselves a silent cheer. When class is over you may cheer more enthusiastically. Announce the winning team. I hope each of you learned something new today and enjoyed it. What new idea did you enjoy learning today? (Accept 4-5 responses). We learned so much from so few words in the Torah! What does that teach us about words from the Torah? A: We can see that the Torah has a meaning for every word. T: What natural element was the focus of each direction? A: The Sun. T: The Torah wanted us to base our learning of kivunim around the sun. Do you know how ancient civilizations used to tell time? A: A sundial. T: Correct. (If you happen to have a sundial, bring it in and display. ) If they were to look at that now, do you know what time it would say? Time to go. Have great day!