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Landforms in the Americas

Context for this Lesson


TOPIC: Landforms in the Americas


  • What are characteristics of various landforms?
  • Where are different types of landforms located in the Americas?
  • How do different landforms affect the lives of people who live near them?

§113.18. Social Studies, Grade 6
(B) Knowledge and Skills: 

  • 6.3: Geography. The student understands the characteristics and relative locations of major historical and contemporary societies.
  • 6.3A: Students will pose and answer geographic questions, including: Where is it located? Why is it there? What is significant about its location? How is its location related to the location of other people, places, and environments?\
  • 6.5A: Identify and explain the geographic factors responsible for the location of economic activities in place and region
  • 6.7: The student understands the impact of interactions between people and the physical environment on the development of places and regions.

Landform handouts
6 pieces of paper with landforms to hand out to students (isthmus, archipelago, mountain range, mesa, delta, island, peninsula)



Facilitator will ask students to stand in a circle in the middle of the space and ask them to think about a place in the Western hemisphere that they would like to visit (may need to reference where the Western hemisphere is). Then, one at a time, going around in a circle, each student will make a vocal choice of how to say their destination and a corresponding movement with their bodies. As each student shared, the group will echo back their location with vocal choice and movement back to them.
Reflection Questions:

  • Why did you choose the voice and movement that you did?
  • How did your choice relate to your destination?
  • What are some of the reasons you would like to visit the locations you chose?

TRANSITION: We have a lot of different reasons for wanting to visit particular places. Some of those reasons have to do with the people that are there [insert student answers here] , and some of the reasons have to do with the land or what is there [insert students answers as applicable here]. Today, we will be exploring some of the characteristics of various places in the Western hemisphere.
SHARING INFORMATION:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      5 MIN
Presuming students have been studying landforms in recent days, have students volunteer the names and basic descriptions of landforms they remember.
TRANSITION: Great. So here’s what we are going to do next. (Define “nonverbal.”) Nonverbally, please find yourselves in groups of 4-5 people. I am going to count down from 7, and when I reach 0, you should be in those groups. (Count down). Now, with your group, find a seat on the floor.



2. ACTIVITY 1: GROUP IMAGES                                                                                                                                                                                                               25 MIN
With our groups, we are going to create some frozen images of several of the landforms you have been learning about. What do you think a frozen image is? [Take student ideas here].
A frozen picture or image (or a tableau) is just like a photograph or a still frame of a video. If there was a group of people standing in front of you and you took a picture with your cell phone, you would have an image. You are going to create a live image with the other people in your group. Let’s do a practice round together. I’m going to need four volunteers. 
One at a time, facilitator will pull students up and ask them to begin their frozen image (of a mountain range). Discuss elements that make a strong frozen picture (positive/negative space, levels), and the difference between making frozen pictures of people and of inanimate objects.
I have a landform written on each of these pieces of paper, and will hand one out to each group in a moment.  It is your group’s job to use your bodies to create a frozen image that lets your audience know what that landform is.
When you receive your landform, think about its characteristics. What makes it different from other kinds of landforms? Where might it be located in the world?
Once you have talked about those things with your group, you will create a frozen picture, using your bodies, to show us what that landform is.
Remember that these pictures are frozen, so make sure that whatever ways you choose to create your picture, you can hold them for at least 30 seconds. Everyone in your group should be involved in your image in some way.
Are there any questions? I’m going to hand out a piece of paper with a landform written on it to each group. Make sure you don’t let any other groups see your paper! When you have received your paper, you can find a space in the room and begin working with your group. You will have about 2 minutes to create your image.
Possible Side Coaching:

  • What elements of your landform are unique?
  • How can you use your bodies to show those elements?
  • Make sure you are choosing positions that you can hold.

After the time has elapsed, students will sit back down facing the front of the room. One at a time, each group will share their image. The rest of the class will describe things they see and try to guess what the landform is (DAR).

  • What do you see (shapes, lines, use of space)?
  • How are people holding their bodies?


  • What might those shapes (and arms/legs/heads/positions) represent in terms of land and water?


  • What kind of landform might this be? What makes you think that? What similarities exist between different types of landforms?


Reflection Questions:

  • How does (each landform) impact people’s lives who live in the area where it exists?

TRANSITION: Making images is challenging, and you did a great job. Keep in mind all of the different kinds of landforms that you just described, and any others that we didn’t see today. Think about where those kinds of landforms exist in the Americas.
3. ACTIVITY 2: MAPPING GEOGRAPHIES                                                                                                                                                                                                            20 MIN
Facilitator will establish playing space and explain that this space is the Western hemisphere, focusing on the Americas. Facilitator will designate the directions of NSEW (preferably in reference to the actual cardinal directions in the classroom, if space permits).
Now, I’m going to ask you to go to a few different places on our physical map. Someone remind me what a physical map is. (A map that details the land.) Everyone may have different answers, so just focus on whatever comes to mind first. Let’s do a trial round. Everyone stand approximately where Austin, TX would be on our map. Make sure you respect your classmates’ personal space.

Continue with examples of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean in order to establish the directions.
Landform Prompts:

  • Mountain range
  • Mesa
  • Delta
  • Archipelago
  • Isthmus
  • Peninsula
  • Island

Facilitator will ask a few students on each round to tell the class where they are and why they have chosen that location.
Excellent, now, when I say go, I’d like for everyone to turn in a circle in order to transform our physical map into a political map. Before we do that, though, someone remind me what a political map is (A map that designates boundaries, like countries, states, and cities). Great. So go ahead and turn around so we have our political map. We are going to find a few places.
Political Prompts:

  • A continent (can be either North or South America, but not Central America)
  • A country
  • A city

After each round, facilitator will ask a few students where they are standing (adding in questions about the equator and northern/southern hemispheres).
For the last round, facilitator will ask students to go to one place on the map that they have never been before but would like to visit. Have a few students share if there is time.


4.) REFLECTING ON THE LESSON                                                                                                                                                                                                                         10 MIN
D: What were some of the things we did today?
A: How do people’s geographic locations affect their lives? What elements of a geographic location have an affect on the way people live?
R: What are some of the landforms in Texas that affect the way we live?