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17.1: Appendix A- Osteology - Directional Terms

  • Page ID
    • Beth Shook & Alex Perrone

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    Learning Objectives
    • Learn terms for anatomical planes and directional terms used in osteology
    • Practice using directional terms to refer to familiar body parts

    Directional Terms

    Format: In-person or online

    The three planes most commonly used in anatomical and medical imaging are the sagittal, frontal (or coronal), and transverse planes.

    Author: Alex Perrone and Beth Shook

    Source: Adapted from Anatomical Terms Worksheet BIO 250. BOOST Consortium, Wallace Community College Selma, and used under a CC BY 4.0 License.

    Time needed: 20-30 minutes

    Supplies Needed

    • Student worksheet (attached)


    • Organ, Jason and Jessica Byram. 2019. Appendix A: Osteology. Explorations.


    This brief assignment introduces students to osteology by allowing them to learn and practice using anatomical terms.


    • Introduce the concept of directional terms and how they are used in both osteology and anthropology.
    • Go over the names of specific anatomical planes, paired directional terms, and anatomical regions (e.g. cranial and post-cranial)
    • Students can work through the worksheet independently or in pairs.


    When students have completed their worksheets, play a game to see how well they have learned the terms. For example, the class can play a game of “Simon Says”. For Simon says, the instructor can say “Simon says to draw the __ plane in the air” or “Simon says to indicate ‘lateral’” by pointing. Students who illustrate the wrong directional term or who draw/point to something when Simon didn’t say so, will be out of the game.

    Adapting for Online Learning

    If this is an in-person lab, rank how adaptable to online learning it would be(mark in bold):

    1 Not adaptable 2 Possible to adapt 3 Easy to adapt

    These worksheets can be done individually or in pairs, face-to-face or virtually. If you want to do the activity synchronously, students could work in pairs or groups of three to fill out copies of a Google Doc or Google Slides. For the conclusion, Simon Says could be played synchronously with video on.

    For Further Exploration

    Essential Skeleton 4 App. 3D4Medical from Elsevier for the iPad or iPhone.

    Get Body Smart.


    Organ, Jason and Jessica Byram. 2019. “Appendix A: Osteology.” In Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology, edited by Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera, and Lara Braff. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association.

    Image Attributions

    Planes of the Body (Anatomy & Physiology, Figure 1.14) by OpenStax was modified for Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology (some labels modified) and is used under a CC BY 4.0 License.

    Anatomical Planes by CFCF is used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

    Directional Terms Applied to the Human Body (Anatomy & Physiology, Figure 1.13) by OpenStax was modified (labels changed, arrows added) is used under a CC BY 4.0 License.

    Directional Terms

    Label the Diagrams

    Label the three anatomical planes below. Then label the dotted line that divides the body into equal right and left halves.

    File:Anatomical Planes.svg

    Label the letters A through F on the diagram below with the corresponding directional terms. Please note that A and B are on the chart twice but only need to be labeled once.

    Word Match

    Write in the term that best corresponds with the definitions in the table. Select terms from the word bank below.

    Anterior Lateral Proximal

    Cranial Medial Superior

    Distal Postcranial

    Inferior Posterior

    Anatomical Term Definition
      Away from the body, along a limb
      Pertaining to all of the skeleton except the skull
      Towards the top, or above
      Pertaining to the head
      Towards the body, along a limb
      Back, or at the back of
      Towards the bottom, or below
      Away from the midline of the body
      Front, or in front of
      Toward the midline of the body

    Draw a line between terms in the two columns to match the paired terms.

    Proximal Distal

    Medial Inferior

    Anterior Posterior

    Superior Lateral

    Complete the Sentence

    Complete these sentences using the terms superior and inferior.

    The nose is ____________________ to the forehead.

    The sternum is ____________________ to the belly button.

    The head is ____________________ to the body.

    Complete these sentences using the terms anterior and posterior.

    The heel is ____________________ to the toes.

    The belly button is ____________________ to the spine.

    The clavicle (collarbone) is ____________________ to the scapula (shoulder blade).

    Complete these sentences using the terms lateral and medial.

    The arms are ______________ to the midline.

    The neck is ______________ to the shoulders.

    The hips are ______________ to the belly button.

    Complete these sentences using the terms proximal and distal.

    The fingers are ______________ to the elbow.

    The knee is ______________ to the foot.

    The wrist is ______________ to the shoulder joint.

    This page titled 17.1: Appendix A- Osteology - Directional Terms is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Beth Shook & Alex Perrone via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.