Planning a Landform Model

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SWBAT create their own model island by first sketching a diagram.

Big Idea

Now that we know different water and landforms, we can create our own model of an island incorporating them. Our first step is to sketch a diagram of our plans.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

Watch this short video for a brief description of the activity and to preview the resources.


The children will watch a quick video on landforms.  Then they will plan and sketch a landform model.  

NGSS/Common Core Connections

In the NGSS, one of the performance expectations is for the children to develop a model to represent the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area.  In the science practices, the children also must develop and use models.  This lesson will help them understand that process.


Planning a Model of an Island recording sheet--1 per student





10 minutes

For a quick review of landforms, we watch a short video on landforms. In this video the landforms we have studied are reviewed in a fun way.  The video shows a picture of an image with its label, holds the image and then shows the definition.  As we are watching, I pause the video when the image appears and have them say the name aloud.  

I want to see if you recognize any of the landforms that we have been studying about.  If you see any that you remember, you may softly call them out.

In the next part of the lesson the children will need to have a good grasp of the landforms and their definitions, so this short review is essential.


10 minutes

Next I have the children discuss what they know about models.

You have been learning a lot about land and water forms.  If you were to make a model of an area, how do you think you could make landforms?  How do you think people represent them in models?  How do you think a mountain would be represented?  How about rivers or lakes?

I raise these questions so the children can start thinking about how and why things are represented like they are on a model.  These questions get them started in this direction.

Here is a relief map of the United States.  Relief maps are one way that people model land on our Earth.  We are going to be taking a closer look at this relief map and discuss it with a partner.  So I would like you to partner up with your My Clock Buddies. 

I use My Clock Buddies when I want the children to get into a partner group to discuss an topic.  In this case, I want them to connect the landforms that we have learned about and think how each one of them could possibly be modeled to represent actual types of land.  I want them to be able to discuss their opinions with someone to bring out their ideas and to see how it compares to their partners ideas.

Think about the landforms that we have studied.  Do you see any of them on this map?  

I want the children to explore the idea that people create maps or other models by using symbols and colors that vaguely resemble the actual landforms.  By discussing these ideas with partners, they can verbalize what they probably already know, but have never stopped to think about it. For others, this is a brand-new idea and the discussion helps bring them to this conclusion.




15 minutes

To explain how people make maps of land areas to show land formations, we take a closer look at the same map as before.  

People use models and maps to represent landforms on Earth. Let's look at how the landforms are represented on this map.   

We go over the parts of the map and how each landform is depicted.

When people are making models, they usually start with a sketch of how they plan on making the model.  In the sketch, the model is diagrammed to show each of the parts, just like how we have diagrammed things in the past.  What are some important parts of diagramming?  

In my room, we have a model diagram anchor chart hanging on the wall.  the children can readily look at it for a reference.  If you do not have an anchor chart like this, you may click here for a sample diagram.  

I want the kids to remember how when we diagram, we label each part with words.  The words are written straight across and then connected to the point of the picture illustrated by using a line.  The line may be diagonal, but the words are always straight so they can be easily read. 


15 minutes

Then I have the children elaborate on this idea by creating their own island.  

Today you are going to get a chance to create your OWN island.  Everyone in the class will be in charge of creating their own unique island.  Who can tell us the definition of an island?  

By this point, the children should be able to state that an island is a piece of land that is completely surrounded by water.

Your island must include 7 different forms of land and water that we have been learning about.  The great part about this, is that you get to choose which water and landforms to include on your island.  You will get to name YOUR island, too.  That's right, you can choose whatever name you would like for your island.  So you are going to have to do some thinking before we begin.  

I am hoping the children get the idea that this is going to be their personal island. Having them buy into the activity increases their participation and learning (see reflection).

The first thing I would like you to do is to sketch a diagram of your plans.  

I pull up a sample of the Planning a Model of an Island recording sheet on the Smartboard as a model.  

Since you are going to be creating an island, it will be completely surrounded by water.  The water around it will be an ocean.  You will need to select two more forms of water to include on your island.  The decision is completely yours.  You might want to think of the forms of water that you like or the ones that you know the most about.  You need to circle the forms of water, like I have done on the sample.

Next you will need to plan what forms of land you would like to include on your island.  You need to include 4 landforms.  Circle the ones that you will be including on your island, as I have done on the sample.  Look how I have chosen to show the landforms that I have chosen.  What do the mountains look like?  Where is the lake?  Can you see a volcano on the island?  What else do you see?

Then I give each child a copy of the Planning a Model of an Island recording sheet.  As they draw a diagram of their island, I walk around and check in on their progress. Here is a girl working hard on her plan.  As I am walking around, I stop and ask questions (see checking in video clip) to keep them on track.  When I am checking, I make sure that the children properly label their diagram, keeping the words straight so they can be read.  I also make sure that they have made representations of each of their 7 landforms.


5 minutes

I wrap up the lesson by reviewing what we have completed.  

Wow!  You have worked really hard today.  You have created plans for your own island model.  You have represented different forms of water and land on your plans.  You have made a diagram that shows each of the parts of your plan.

Why do you think I had you plan your island before you made it?  How do you think this will help you when we make the islands tomorrow?

I want the children to realize that planning is an important part of the creation process.  It will help them organize their ideas so they can be successful when building.  The plan can be thought of as a model in itself and understanding them is part of the science practices, and the NGSS.  Thus learning how to develop them successfully is one of the main goals of this lesson.

To evaluate, I make sure the children have done the following:

  • included 3 water forms (1 ocean and 2 others)
  • included 4 landforms
  • the water/landforms have been shown correctly (example: a lake is completely surrounded by water)
  • have labeled each water/landform
  • words are upright

Here are 3 samples of my students' work which include all of the requirements (see sample A, sample B and sample C).   This sample needs some corrections, since the student has labeled an ocean in the middle of the island and the river does not extend to the ocean.  I make sure the corrections are made before she begins her model building tomorrow.