Rolling Down the River - Part 2

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SWBAT create a class map that shows a river and possible associated landforms as a group.

Big Idea

River headwaters to delta, students put the river pieces together to create a class river map.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

In the previous lesson concepts about river and landform terms were illustrated and discussed. In this lesson, students apply their learning to create a GIANT river map.

By applying the river research to a hands-on project, I help develop the students' schema of a river system, which I will tap into as they begin to learn about weathering and erosion.

NGSS Standards

ESS2 C - Develop a model to represent the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area

Teams work together to map a section of a river and identify associated landforms.

Cross-cutting Concepts - Appendix G

Systems and System Models - XC4

Students examine the parts of a river to learn about a river system and the adjacent landforms, and how these 2 systems affect each other.

Science Practices

Developing and Using Models - SP2

Students create a 'river map' to show the features of a river and adjacent land forms.

Lesson Preparation

Prepare the butcher paper, with a pencil create 6 sections and number for the 6 groups that will be working on that section of the map. Use a pen to show where the river starts and ends on that section to ensure continuity of the map.

I chose to cut apart the sections so that students would have more room to move around their section.

The map sections are:

1. headwaters and canyon

2. tributary and hills

3. meandering and flood plains

4. oxbow lake and river

5. lake with river on each side (inlet and outlet)

6. mouth and delta.

Consider drawing the contour lines for mountains and foothills, before lesson, or plan to meet with these teams to help plan the contour lines.

Number each section on the back and cut apart. Write 'top' so students know how to orient their section.

Find a public space to hang the map when it is completed.

Copy the vocabulary card labels for students to complete, which will be posted on their section of the map

6  iPads for students to access to see river images, to help them decide what colors to use on their section of the map.

make 6 teams

Material for Each Team

label and definition cards for students to fill out for river and landform features

map section

make 6 teams

Prepare the butcher paper, with a pencil create 6 sections and number for the 6 groups that will be working on that section of the map. The map sections are:

1. headwaters and canyon

2. tributary and hills

3. meandering and flood plains

4. oxbow lake and river

5. lake with river on each side (inlet and outlet)

6. mouth and delta.

Question for the Day

5 minutes

Science begins with a question, usually written on the board.  This allows students time to consider today's topic before the lesson has officially begun. 

When students return from lunch, we meet on the rug to read our 'science question for the day'. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day - What makes water flow down hill?

Not much of a discussion question today, but it helps the students begin to think how a river may start. 

"Right gravity! So for a river to move, to flow it needs 2 conditions. What are they? Gravity and a slope. So where do rivers flow to? Yes the ocean! What is the end of the river called where it pours into the ocean?"

Let's look at our KLEWS chart to help us name the different sections of the river. 

I use the images from the last lesson to review the following terms.







inlet and outlet

flood plain


oxbow lake



"Today you will work in teams to make a GIANT river map which will hang in the office. Your river map will be available to others to learn from!"

"Please return to your desk and take out your river blue print you made last week and a pencil. Then have a seat on the rug with your team."

While students take out their maps, I post the teams and river section they will work on.

Let's Make a Map

40 minutes

"Check the board to see who you will be working with for your part of the river. Then sit with your team on the rug."

"Place a star on your river blue print so you know which part of the river map your team will be working on"

I check that students are sitting with team members and that they have marked their individual maps.

"Each team will work on a different part of the river, but when we put all the sections together, you will have mapped a river from the mountain to the ocean! You will draw your section of the river on this paper."

I hold up one of the sections to show how I marked the river entering and leaving the section. I explain that the teams will show the land form and river parts in their section, but need to have the river connect with the lines that I drew.

"Let's review what you will need to complete on your river section." These tasks are written on the board as I review with the students.

Possible Tasks:

- discuss with the team where the river will be drawn; get team's approval

- draw the river

- discuss the colors to use for the landforms

- color the river

- write the definition for the landform and river terms

- make the labels for the river and landform

Remaining time is used to work on the river map sections. I walk around the room to help with contour lines and to start discussions about a river.

My kiddos used markers and crayons to fill in their river section. They had a large area to fill. Next time I will consider using paints instead of markers and crayons, and possibly incorporate this aspect of the lesson into an art lesson.

- Where would the river flow the fastest? why?

- What happens when fresh water from the river flows into the ocean?

- Why do you think a river meanders?

- What causes all this land to build up in the delta?

- What evidence would we have to show that a river once flowed in a particular place?

- What might happen if you live by a river?

Putting the River Together

10 minutes

When all the teams have completed their river section, I signal students to bring their map sections with them to the rug and to sit with their team, perimeter style.

Students know when they hear 'perimeter style' they are to sit along the edges of the rug. This helps to reinforce math terms and to quickly get the kiddos sitting in a particular formation. Besides they enjoy the 'code' for seating arrangements.

" I am so proud of how well you worked with your team, and how you helped each other."

I look for authentic precise ways to compliment my students' work so that it is clear as to what they should be working toward.

"Let's put our river map together! Where does a river start? Let's place that piece down first..."

I continue in this manner until all the pieces are placed on the rug.

"Look at all this new vocabulary you have learned! Wow! Look how much you know about a river now. Give yourselves a round of applause for the wonderful river map you created!"