ALEX Lesson Plan


A Study of the Physical Regions of Alabama

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Alabama Department of Archives and Hist
System: Informal Education Partner
School: Informal Education Partner
The event this resource created for:Alabama History Education Initiative
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 33729


A Study of the Physical Regions of Alabama


In this lesson, students will learn the characteristics of the five geographic regions of Alabama by researching the regions using maps, the Internet, and books. The students will also make a salt dough map depicting Alabama’s land regions.

This lesson was created as a part of the Alabama History Education Initiative, funded by a generous grant from the Malone Family Foundation in 2009.

Author Information: Ivy Murry and DeShaundra Johnson (Cohort 1: 2009-2010); Holly Hill Elementary and Hall-Kent; Elementary Enterprise City Schools and Homewood City Schools;  Enterprise, AL and Homewood, AL

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 4
Alabama Studies
1 ) Compare historical and current economic, political, and geographic information about Alabama on thematic maps, including weather and climate, physical-relief, waterway, transportation, political, economic development, land-use, and population maps.

•  Describing types of migrations as they affect the environment, agriculture, economic development, and population changes in Alabama
Unpacked Content
Strand: Economics, Geography, History, Civics and Government
Course Title: Alabama Studies (Alabama)
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
Use thematic maps to identify:
  • historical and current economic information
  • political information
  • geographic information
  • weather and climate
  • physical features
  • waterways
  • migration patterns of people
  • transportation
  • land use
  • population
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • agriculture
  • economic development
  • physical-relief maps
Students know:
  • Many events can impact the population, economic development, and land use in an area.
The students are able to:
  • Analyze characteristics of Alabama using physical and thematic maps.
  • Describe the relationship between human migration and population.
Students understand that:
  • Events can impact the population, economic development, and land use in an area.
  • The climate and weather of our state impacts the population, economic development, and land use.
Alabama Archives Resources:
Click below to access all Alabama Archives resources aligned to this standard.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.4.1- Identify historical and current economic, political, and geographic information about Alabama.

SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
16 ) Describe patterns of Earth's features on land and in the ocean using data from maps (e.g., topographic maps of Earth's land and ocean floor; maps of locations of mountains, continental boundaries, volcanoes, and earthquakes).

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Analyzing and Interpreting Data
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth's Systems
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Describe patterns of Earth's features on land using data from maps.
  • Describe patterns of Earth's features in the ocean using data from maps.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • patterns
  • data
  • structures
  • features
  • topographical
  • continental boundaries
  • deep ocean trench
  • ocean floor
  • volcanoes
  • mountains
  • earthquakes
Students know:
  • Locations of mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, ocean floor structures, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns.
  • Volcanoes and earthquakes occur in bands that are often along the boundaries between continents and oceans.
  • Major mountain chains form inside continents or near their edges.
Students are able to:
  • Organize data using graphical displays from maps of Earth's features.
  • Articulate patterns that can be used as evidence to describe Earth's features on land and in the ocean using maps.
  • Use logical reasoning based on the organized data to make sense of and describe the patterns in Earth's features.
Students understand that:
  • Earth's features occur in patterns.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Water and Landforms

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.4.16- Use a map key to identify land and water features on a map.

Local/National Standards:

National Council for Geographic Education, 1994 Geographic Standard 4-Grades K-4 (p. 113)

Places and Regions The student is able to: A. Describe and compare the physical characteristics of places at a variety of scales, local to global, as exemplified by being able to

   • Use a variety of visual materials and data sources (e.g., photographs, satellite produced images, pictures, tables, charts) to describe the physical characteristics of a region, noting items that have similar distributions (e.g., trees in river valleys)

   • Use cardboard, wood, clay, or other materials to make a model of a region that shows its physical characteristics (e.g., landforms, bodies of water, vegetation)

Primary Learning Objective(s):

The student will be able to:

  • identify the land regions of Alabama
  • describe the natural resources and environments of the regions
  • demonstrate map skills by making, painting, and labeling a physical map of the land regions of Alabama

Additional Learning Objective(s):

The student will be able to categorize geological features of Alabama, e.g. plateaus - Cumberland Plateau, plains - East Gulf Coastal Plain

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

• Primary source maps of land regions

• Alabama Land Regions handout (Attachment 1)

• Items for display (optional, see Extension) from the five regions of Alabama such as: cotton, coal, soil, corn, soybeans, limestone, marble, iron

• History journals

• Anchor chart with the five geographic regions of Alabama listed as headings

• Sticky notes

• Cardboard or stock for map base

• Food coloring - Five colors will be needed. This could be an opportunity to teach how colors combine to form other colors.

• Grading rubric for map (Attachment 2)

• Salt dough (Find a recipe online or use the one below) or clay      

          • Recipe for dough:


  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 zipper quart or gallon storage bags to be used to mix the dough  

Directions: You may add 2 or 3 teaspoons of lemon juice to make your dough finish harder. In the storage bag, knead the dough with the desired food coloring. The average drying time is 28-50 hours. (It would be expedient to have dough premixed and separated. If you have parent volunteers, have them mix the dough.) 

Technology Resources Needed:

Technology Resources Needed:

• Computer with Internet access

• LCD projector (If computer and projector are not available, have hard copies of maps for students


Teacher Preparation 

• The following link provides a taped video presentation by Dr. John Hall on January 15, 2009, detailing the physical geography and geology of Alabama. This presentation was a part of the ArchiTreats series of lectures presented by the Alabama Department of Archives and History in celebration of the Year of Alabama History, 2009.

Available on the APTPlus Web site:

• For additional information about the physical geography and geology of Alabama, the Encyclopedia of Alabama provides several articles on these topics.

Student Preparation:


• The students should be able to read and interpret a relief map.

• An excellent presentation on Alabama’s geology and geography was given by Dr. John Hall at ArchiTreats, a monthly lecture series, at the Alabama Department of Archives and History in January, 2009. This presentation contains some very beautiful photographs of Alabama and is available on the ADAH Web site and on the APTPlus Web site:

This presentation or parts of the presentation may be shown to students for background information.



Engagement/Motivation Activity:

In a story-like manner, teach students that the land regions were formed before the first inhabitants of Alabama arrived by saying: “Let me tell you about something that happened long before you were a baby, long before I was a baby, long before the ‘Choctaw-Chickasaw-Cherokee-Creek,’ and even before the Paleo-Indians reached Alabama at the end of the Ice Age - not the movie. There were no counties, no cities, just the land. Alabama had formed naturally into five major land regions.


Think about land regions and about what you think they are. I am going to show you some maps that might help you to get a better understanding of what a land region might be.”

Show primary source maps. Teach students that a land region has geographic, political, or cultural characteristics that distinguish it from others whether it exists in only one state or country or extends over several.

Primary source maps:

Step 1 Show map of Alabama land regions from the following Web site:

Give an overview of the five regions and point out land forms.

Step 2 Instruct students that although the work will be completed in groups, each student will be responsible for knowing the characteristics of all five regions, and each group will be responsible for a presentation on one region (Jigsaw).

Divide students into five groups and distribute Alabama Land Regions handout. Students may also utilize information in textbooks and on the internet. Students will work in groups to find important facts about each region such as its natural resources, its land forms, and its flora and fauna. Students should also note the role of the fall line in the geography of the state and that some counties cross land regions. Groups will present learned information in jigsaw fashion.

As this information is presented, each student will write facts about each region on sticky notes.

Step 3 On an anchor chart, each group will place its sticky notes on the appropriate region.

Step 4 The students will play the game “Which Region Is it?” in which students divide into teams and attempt to identify the various land regions of Alabama based upon clues taken from the handout, “Land Regions of Alabama.”

• Students will be divided into teams of three or four and they will select a team spokesman.

• Each team will create and label index cards with the names of the land regions of Alabama.

• After the teacher reads a clue about the land regions of Alabama, the team will discuss and select an answer.

• The team spokesman will hold up the correct answer.

• Remember that certain characteristics may be found in more than one land region, such as growing cotton. The team with the most correct answers wins.


Step 5 The students will use salt dough to make 3-D maps of Alabama using different colors of dough to depict each land region.  Students will label the maps after they have dried and write a description of the five land regions of Alabama in their journals.

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Assessment Strategies

• Teacher will assess student-made maps using the attached map rubric. (Attachment 2)



• The students will create a brochure depicting the five land regions and the natural resources found in each region. (Students may use a computer program to create the brochure or they may create the brochures using paper and photographs collected from magazines or from Web sites.)

• Using a display of different types of natural resources, rocks, and soils from the land regions, the students will determine in which region(s) the item could be found.


Students who need additional assistance may work with a peer.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.