What Shapes the Land?

64 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT explain how a diagram or photo helps them understand landforms.

Big Idea

Beautiful images and diagrams in a book don't just look pretty. We can use them to help us understand what we are reading.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

The teacher will read a book about different landforms.  The children will learn about the features of the landforms and how they were shaped by natural forces.  Then text features will be discussed.  The children will then explain how a text feature, such as images or diagrams, helped them to understand the scientific content more clearly.

NGSS/Common Core Connections

As part of the NGSS the children need to know and understand landforms.  This lesson will help them learn not only facts about them, but the process they have gone through in their formation.  In the Common Core, children need to able to understand scientific informational text.  Looking at images and diagrams play an important role of their understanding.  The students should be able to use images to help contribute and clarify text and support understanding.   They will be recalling information to help them answer a question.


Parent Connection

When I begin this unit on Earth's Changes, I send out this parent letter to help keep them informed and involved in what we are doing in school.  This knowledge helps build a strong communication from school to home.  



15 minutes

To engage the students, we watch a super cool video about the 25 strangest geological features on Earth (8:44).  

We are going to be learning all about the Earth.  The Earth contains many interesting and unusual landforms.  We are going to be studying more about landforms and how they are shaped in this unit.  

This video will showcase some of these interesting landforms using interesting images.  Photos, diagrams and pictures are all types of images.  But in this video, only one type of image has been used.  I would like you to watch the video carefully and be ready to share your favorite image.

In the next part of the lesson, we will be learning how images are helpful.  So I try to tie this video into what we will be learning.  Some kids do not yet understand the word image, so I make sure I use it in the context of words that they do understand, such as photograph, picture and diagram.

This is extremely interesting and the children are fascinated.  After we have watched the video, we discuss their favorite formations that were shown by the use of photographs.  They are ready to learn more.


20 minutes

Having the children learn how to utilize images and diagrams helps them to digest and understand scientific concepts more efficiently.  But kids sometimes don't connect the images to their learning, they just see them as a separate entity.  Making them see the importance of images and diagrams helps them understand these connections.  

Words are not the only way an author communicates ideas.  Photos, images and diagrams can be used to make the ideas even more clear and easy to understand.  I am going to read you a book about different landforms and how they were made.  I will be showing you the photos, images and diagrams.  I want you to be thinking of how each of these images help you to understand what I am reading better.

For the bulk of this lesson, I read the book What Shapes the Land?  It is a great book, but don't feel like you cannot do this lesson if you do not have this.  There are many books which would be good substitutes for it.  The main idea I want the children to walk away with is that we can gain massive amounts of knowledge by using diagrams and images.  You can do this with any informational book.

As I am reading, I make sure to stop along the way and model my thinking.  By doing this, I am actually modeling my thinking to the class.  This gets their brains thinking along the same lines.  


15 minutes

 To help the children understand the concept that using images and diagrams are helpful, I have them practice by choosing a diagram or image from a book and explain how it is helpful to them.  They will be writing their explanation on the Helpful Images recording sheet.  They will also be working on the standard of recalling information to help them answer a question.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Now you are going to get a chance to show me how photos, images and diagrams help you understand what you are reading.  I want you to think about the informational book that I have just read.  Think about an image that really helped you understand the text.   

Draw that image at the top in the picture frame.  Then write how it helped you understand the the landform better. You might want to start with the words "This image helped me by...." or "This diagram showed me...."

I write those two sentence frames on the board to help get them started.  I leave them on the board for reference for those who need a little extra.  Even these few words helps get them on the right track for their writing.


5 minutes

To end the lesson, we talk about the main ideas we have learned.

  • How can an image be helpful?
  • Why do you think an author sometimes chooses to put an image on a page?
  • If you were an author, how would you decide if you were going to put a diagram or a photo on a page?
  • What was an image from today's reading that you thought was the most helpful?

Getting them to talk about why and author might choose one type of image over another also gets them thinking about the strengths of images.  

I collect their paper and check to see that they have gotten the main idea of the lesson.  See student sample A,  sample B , sample C and sample D.  I give the students a 3, 2, or 1 in the following categories on a rubric:

  • Are the ideas written clearly?
  • Did they explain the idea that they have learned something of essence from the image?
  • Did they draw an image that shows they understood the prompt?
  • Were their facts accurate?
  • Did they use grammar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling accurately?