Learning about Landforms

16 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT collect and analyze information by finding the main topic of pages in a scientific text.

Big Idea

Landforms come in many different shapes and sizes. We can identify the main topic of a paragraph to help us understand them more clearly.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

Watch the short video for an activity description and to preview the resources.

NGSS Connection

The children will learn information about various types of landforms by listening to a text.  In the NGSS they need to be able to develop a model to represent the shapes and kind of land and bodies of water in an area.  This will be one of the building blocks to aid in that goal.  One of the main ELA goals of this lesson is for the children to be able to identify the main topic of a multi-paragraph text and the author's supporting details.  The children will also be identifying different text features, such as table of contents, subheadings and diagrams.


  • informational books-- You will need 1 book per partner group.  If you have a class set of a single title of an informational book, it would be ideal, but a variety informational books will do.  Books relating to our Earth would be optimal.  
  • sticky notes--about 10 per partner group
  • book titled Introducing Landforms by Bobbie Kalman or another informational book about landforms
  • whiteboard or chart paper for recording responses
  • finding the main topic worksheet--1 per student




5 minutes

In a previous lesson, the children became "experts" about a landform topic by researching and collecting information about their assigned landforms.  Then the children presented their "expert" project using an app called a YAKiT and taught their information to the class.  The students learned from their classmates.  Now I would like to increase their knowledge of landforms by reading an informational text to them.  In other words, I began with them exploring the concepts themselves and now they will learn more about landforms using a more formal method. Thus, we already have some background knowledge of landforms, but still have much to learn.  So today we are going to dive even deeper into learning about landforms by reading a text.   

I want to begin the lesson by tying in what we have already learned about landforms in these previous lessons to what we are about to learn.  I have found that tying lessons together helps the children understand what we are learning better.  

We have learned about landforms by researching and presenting our YAKiTs. What can you tell me about landforms? 

We are going to be learning even more about landforms today by reading a book.  What type of book do you think would give us the best information, literary or informational?  Why?  

Today you are going to be a detective and figure out the features that can be found in an informational text.




15 minutes

As a science practice and in the Common Core, the children need to be able to use parts of an informational book to help them locate the information that they need.  So in this short exercise, we are going to go over the parts of an informational book.  Since the beginning of the year, my class has practiced using these skills.  Thus my children are very familiar with the parts of an informational book, but this part of the lesson helps them practice what they have learned and reinforces it for the lower achieving students.  If your class is not familiar with these parts of a book, you might want to spend some extra time doing this exercise.

I partner the children up and give each group an informational book and a small stack of sticky notes. I give them directions to help get them started.

What type of book do you have on your desks--informational or literary?  What are your clues that help lead you to this conclusion?  I want you to look through the book and identify clues that help us know that is informational.  Write the name of the type of information that you have found on a sticky note.  Place a sticky note on the page where you found it.  Be ready to share the name of the part you have found.

I give them about 5-10 minutes to look through the book and add their sticky notes.  We have a class discussion and I make a chart of all the things they notice.  Here is a collective list of what my class comes up with:

    • table of contents
    • photographs
    • captions
    • title and subheadings
    • maps
    • labels on pictures
    • questions and answers
    • diagrams
    • bold-faced words
    • quiz at end
    • words to know section
    • index



30 minutes

I read the book Introducing Landform for a variety of purposes.  First and foremost, I want the children to gain some content knowledge about landforms.  There are so many concepts and terms that are in this book that will further their knowledge of every landform we are studying.  The photographs are wonderful and the text is fairly easy to understand.  But this is also a great text to use to practice finding identifiable structures of informational texts and the main topic of a multi-paragraph selection.

Now let's take a look at this new book titled Introducing Landforms. Let's look through the pages.  What type of book do you think this is?  What is your proof?

I want them to come up with the same sorts of parts of a book that we came up with earlier when practicing on their own (see above list).  

We read the book Introducing Landforms and discuss, asking questions of what, where, when, why and how.  I want them to be able to obtain solid content information about landforms.  Examples of questions are:

  • (p. 5) What are landforms? (different shapes of land on Earth)
  • ( p. 5) What are landforms shaped by? (wind, fires, water, ice, movements of the Earth)
  • (p.8) Name different types of coasts. (rocky with cliffs or sandy)
  • (p.9) Name 3 different types of waters shaped by coasts. (bays, coves and harbors)
  • (p.10) Where can fresh water be found? (rivers and lakes)
  • (p. 11) How is a lake made? (from melting glaciers that form basins)
  • (p. 15) Why do few plants and animals live high in the mountains? (it is cold)
  • (p. 16) Where are valleys found? (between mountains)

One of the skills we are working on in conjunction with the others is finding the main topic and supporting details.  You can do this on almost any page in the book since there are many opportunities to illustrate the point.  

When we have finished reading the book, I model finding the main topic and supporting details using the information on page 13 for an example.  Click here for an answer key.  This graphic organizer works great for the kids to see how the main idea is sort of like an umbrella over the supporting details.  Click here to see why I use graphic organizers to help the children visualize main concepts.  We also discuss why the author wrote this text.

Then we make an anchor chart about finding the main topic of a text.  The anchor chart teaches the children to use language stems to help them find the main topic.  Examples of language stems are:

  • The main topic is....
  • I think the most important thing this text talks about is......
  • This teaches me about...........
  • I've learned that............

We hang the anchor chart up so it is front and center so when they are working independently, they can refer to it.




Independent Practice

10 minutes

For independent practice, the students will be using the same informational book they used as in the "explore" section.  

You will now be practicing finding the main topic and supporting details in your own book.  I would like you use the book that you used earlier.  You can use any informational page in the book that you wish.  You should try to find one that you think has a main topic and supporting sentences. Read the entire page to yourself.  Then you need to write the main topic in the box at the top, just like we did in the example.  Then you need to read the page again.  Look for details that support the topic as you read.  Then find 3 sentences that support this topic.  Write the sentences in the boxes under the main topic.  Do you have any questions?

I have the children work independently as I walk around and check in.  I make sure that they stay on task, and understand what they are to do.  If they need some support, I help them right on the spot. Click here for a video of the class working.  You might wonder why I included this video, since it only shows them working.  But I am so proud of them for working hard on this concept!  It is a rare moment that my class is this quiet!  Click here for a student example of the main topic worksheet.


5 minutes

I call the students back to the corner to wrap up.

You have done a lot of hard work today.  You have done some reading on your own and found the main topic of a page.  How did finding the main topic help you to understand what you are reading?

I am looking for them to be able to tell me that figuring out the main topic of a page helps you to understand what you are reading more clearly.  We discuss their thoughts and ideas, so even the most reluctant are encouraged to either voice their opinion or learn from what others are saying.

I collect the students papers to check them.  Even though they have used different books, it is still easy to check their answers.  All you need to check for is if the supporting details actually support the main topic that they have given.  For the students that are having trouble with finding the main topic, I pull them aside in a small group and work on the skill.