Types of Dams

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SWBAT identify the features of four main types of dams. SWBAT identify the purpose of dams.

Big Idea

Arch, buttress, embankment, and gravity dams impede the flow of rivers to help humans meet their needs.


15 minutes

I begin the lesson by asking students what they already know about dams. I list the information that students provide on the whiteboard in the front of the class. This sharing activity enables students to activate their prior knowledge on the topic and gets students thinking about dams.

After the students have shared what they know, I ask them to work with a partner to create a definition for a dam. I ask students to record their definition on a sentence strip and I display these in a pocket chart at the front of the class. I provide time for students to share their definitions with the class. I then ask students to synthesize the definitions by identifying elements that are present in multiple student definitions. The class works together until we have built a shared definition for the term dam.  

Guided Practice

35 minutes

Next,I guide students to create a graphic organizer to use as they learn about the four types of dams. To make the graphic organizer, students fold a 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper in half long ways. I then ask the students to use a pencil to divide the front of the folded paper into four sections. Next, I ask students to use their scissors to cut through the front of the page that is divided into four sections. This makes a graphic organizer with four sections.

I use the types of dams presentation to show students examples of the four main types of dams. As I show each dam type, I ask students to write the type of dam on the front if their graphic organizer. I then ask students to lift the flap and to write the features of a each dam type and to draw a picture of each type of dam. Please see the example of the front and inside of the completed graphic organizer.


10 minutes

I end the lesson by giving students chance to share their completed graphic organizers with the class. This reinforces the knowledge students have constructed and gives the students an opportunity to practice their public speaking and presentation skills. 

A video of one student presenting her graphic organizer can be found here.