ALEX Lesson Plan


Can you form a landform?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Kate Smith
System: Decatur City
School: Decatur City Board Of Education
Author:Abbi Griffin
System: Athens City
School: Julian Newman Elementary School
The event this resource created for:NASA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34198


Can you form a landform?


The students will create a landform using modeling clay in a small group setting.  

This lesson was created as part of the 2016 NASA STEM Standards of Practice Project, a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 2
29 ) Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about Grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups. [SL.2.1]

a. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion). [SL.2.1a]

b. Build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others. [SL.2.1b]

c. Ask for clarification and further explanation as needed about the topics and texts under discussion. [SL.2.1c]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 2
34 ) Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification. (See Grade 2 Language standards 35 and 37 for specific expectations.) [SL.2.6]

SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 2
9 ) Create models to identify physical features of Earth (e.g., mountains, valleys, plains, deserts, lakes, rivers, oceans).

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
E4.3: The surface of Earth changes. Some changes are due to slow processes such as erosion and weathering, and some changes are due to rapid processes such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth's Systems
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Develop a model, like a map, to represent the physical features of land and bodies of water in an area.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Physical features
  • Models
  • Mountains
  • Valleys
  • Plains
  • Deserts
  • Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Oceans
Students know:
  • The physical features of Earth can be modeled, as on a map.
  • The relationship between components their model and kinds of land and bodies of water in a given area.
Students are able to:
  • Create a model that represents both land and bodies of water in an area.
  • Make connections between their model and the shapes and kinds of land and water in an area.
Students understand that:
  • Models can represent patterns in the natural world like the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Soils and Shores
Pebbles, Sand, and Silt, FOSS
Shrinking Shore, ETA/hand2mind

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.2.9- Identify physical features of Earth (e.g., mountain, valley, river, lake).

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

The students will create a landform (mountain, valley, island, plain, desert, lake, river, ocean) in a group setting using modeling clay on cardboard pieces.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

The students will be able to speak clearly to the class when describing the landform built.  

The students will also write a descriptive paragraph about the class model.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Modeling clay (brown, green, blue, white)

Cardboard pieces (8x12) one per group

Plain paper


7 index cards- one landform written on a card (island, river, ocean, lake, plain, desert, mountain/valley)

paper or writing journal



Technology Resources Needed:

Computer with internet access or tablet

Video on landforms - Exploring Landforms and Bodies of Water for kids


This lesson is an activity after the study of landforms.  Students need to know each landform:  island, mountain, lake, river, ocean, plain, desert, and valley.  

The teacher will prepare work station areas for each landform ahead of time using all colors of clay.


The teacher will have work stations set up for each group naming the landform they will create on an index card. 

The students will view the video, Exploring Landforms and Bodies of Water for kids, as a review on landforms. (Listed in technology resources.)

The teacher will divide the class into seven groups one for each landform to be created.  The students will imagine and discuss in small groups how to create landforms with modeling clay.  

The students will plan together. Each group must produce a drawing of their assigned landform using crayons and paper before beginning to create the model of the landform.  The teacher must approve the drawing before building the landform.  Upon approval, the students will collaborate and build landform given using modeling clay on a cardboard piece. 

Representations described below may vary.   

The lake group will use blue clay to form a flat lake surrounded by land made out of green and brown clay.

The mountain/valley group will use green and brown clay to create land with steep sides that rise up from the main land.  They may use a little white clay on the peak for snow.  They will also focus on the location of a valley which is the low land between the mountains.

The river group will use blue clay to create a large stream that runs through land to another body of water.  They will use green and brown clay to make land on both sides of the river.

The island group will use green and brown clay to form land completely surrounded by water using blue clay.

The desert group will use brown clay to create an extremely dry area with little water and few plants.

The plain group will use green clay to form land that represents a large area of flat, grassy land.

The ocean group will use blue clay to represent a large body of salt water.

After 35 minutes of forming landforms with clay, each group will present their representation to the class and the class will listen and critique each model.  The group may make any improvements if necessary after discussing to the class.

When all groups have shared and made improvements, the students will write a descriptive paragraph about the landform they created in their journal.  After writing, they may illustrate the writing piece.

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Assessment Strategies

The teacher will use observations to assess the models created by the students. 



Students will research the landforms found on the surface of Mars using the attached document (NASA Mars formations) with links embedded.


Students having difficulty with landforms will re-watch the video, Exploring Landforms and Bodies of Water for kids.

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.