Lesson: Geographic Features of the US, Bodies of Water

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Lesson Objective

Geographers will be able to label and identify the geographic features such as rivers and lakes of the United States.

Lesson Plan

Geographic Features of the United States


Standards:  Standard 1: Physical and Spatial: Students shall develop an understanding of the physical and spatial characteristics and applications of geography.


Objective: Geographers will be able to label and identify the geographic features such as rivers and lakes of the United States.  


Duration: 40 minutes



·         Powerpoint

·         Worksheets



·         Hook

·         Instruction: Physical Features of the United States

·         Guided Practice: Identify

·         Independent Practice: Identify

·         Closure: Exit Ticket


Main Idea: Students need to identify the elements of maps and globes. They will explore the difference between relative and absolute locations. By the end of this chapter, students will be able to label features on maps and a diagram. They will be able to define geographic terms and apply them to the geography of the United States. They will determine the absolute location with lines of latitude and longitude and identify physical features of the United States. Students will be able to identify the four oceans, seven continents, and 50 United States of America.


Guiding Question: What can geography teach us about the United States?


Hook:  Instructor holds up the globe. What is this? What can you find on the globe?


Instruction (6 minute): Yesterday, we learned about the physical features of the United States, focusing on mountains and plains. Today, we are going to continue with learning more about the physical features of the United States. It’s important to learn more about these features because when we get to more historical learning, you will be able to put location into context. The United States is on the continent of North America. In land, it is the world’s third largest country. Russia is the largest. Canada is the second largest. Our country is bordered by three large bodies of water. The Pacific Ocean is to the west. This is the Earth’s largest ocean. The Atlantic Ocean is to the east. This is the Earth’s second largest ocean. The Gulf of Mexico lies to the southeast.


Before we begin learning about rivers and lakes, let’s quickly review our mountains and plains physical features. Instructor shows powerpoint—emphasize last slide with map and pointing to the location of the physical features. From a space shuttle, you would see mountain ranges that run from north to south in North America. In the west, the Rocky Mountains stretch about 3,000 miles from Alaska, through Canada, to New Mexico. The Rockies are the largest mountain range in the west. The Appalachian Mountains are the largest range in the east. They extend more than 1,500 miles, from Quebec Province in Canada to Alabama. The Sierra Nevada range in the far west is about 400 miles long. It includes Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States, or the 48 states not including Alaska and Hawaii.


While viewing North America from space, you would also see large areas covered by plains. The biggest of these areas is the Great Plains. They reach from Canada to Texas. At one time, they were huge natural grasslands where buffalo roamed. Today, American farmers in the Great Plains grow much of the world’s wheat. The other large are of flat land is the Gulf Coastal Plain in the southeast. These are low lands that sometimes experience flooding. The floods bring rich soil down from the mountains, making the land ideal for farming.


1.      Rocky Mountains

2.      Appalachian Mountains

3.      Sierra Nevada

4.      Mount Whitney

5.      Great Plains

6.      Gulf Coastal Plain


Continuing on to rivers and lakes, one of the most striking features of the United States is its system of mighty rivers and lakes. These waterways have provided routes for ships and power for industry. In this way, they have helped the United States become a wealthy nation. The largest river in the nation is the Mississippi River. The Mississippi has its source in Minnesota and runs 2,350 miles before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico (mouth). Two of its largest tributaries are the Ohio River and the Missouri River. The St. Lawrence River is a key river in the northeastern United States. It flows from one of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario, into the Atlantic Ocean. The St. Lawrence forms part of the border between the United States and Canada. Also in the north, there is the Great Lakes which are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface and volume. In the South, the Rio Grande forms much of the US border with Mexico. The Columbia River is a major river in the west. It forms part of the border between the states of Oregon and Washington. The Columbia River runs into the Pacific Ocean.

Instructor shows PowerPoint of mountains and plains. Listed on the board, instructor will say words and have students repeat them chorally.

1.      St. Lawrence River

2.      Great Lakes

3.      Rio Grande

4.      Columbia River

5.      Mississippi River

Guided Practice (10 minutes): We’ve put visuals with these words, now let’s identify and locate them on the PowerPoint by Stand and Deliver (all students stand and instructor asks a questions. Students must respond in 5 seconds-if not, instructor will ask another student to answer). Instructor will read statements (definitions of locations of all physical features) in order for students to identify the answer. In addition, instructor will turn to the board and point to the sections of the map for students to locate the place of the key terms. Once a student successfully answers, they can sit down and earn their independent practice sheet.


Independent Practice (10 minutes): Students complete their worksheet and identify/label the physical features of the United States. Students can look at their Social Studies book for more information. Instructor will walk around the room to check for spelling and accuracy. Students will earn a checkmark for correctness, spelling, and neatness.


Closure: Exit Ticket and Review answers.


Lesson Resources

Lesson Plan, Geography  


Christine Hernandez Posted 3 years ago:

No Power Point?

Nikki Christman Posted 3 years ago:

Where is the powerpoint?

Crystal Felima Posted 6 years ago:
PowerPoint is located under Geography Unit



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