Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
From Sea to Shining Sea

An Encyclopedia of Physical Features

Objective: Students work in groups to create a classroom encyclopedia of landforms and bodies of water to understand the characteristics of various physical features.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
3 hours over a period of 2 or 3 days

Building Background:
Ask students to define the term physical feature. Then, on the board, list the six physical features students learned about in the unit (oceans, rivers, forests, prairies, mountains, deserts). Ask students to tell what they know about each feature and write their responses on the board. Then tell students that they will work in groups to create a classroom encyclopedia of physical features.

What To Do:

1. Divide students into six groups. Assign each group a physical feature. Or you may want to write the physical features on slips of paper and place them in box. Have a member of each group draw a slip of paper from the box.

2. Pass out one copy of the Creating an Encyclopedia Entry worksheet to each group. Tell students in each group that they will work together to fill out the worksheet based on the physical feature they are researching.

3. Have students use their textbook and classroom or library reference books to gather information on the physical feature. If you have Internet access, students can search these sites for information on landforms and bodies of water.

What's It Like Where You Live?

This site from the Missouri Botanical Garden is designed for kids and provides extensive information on and images of various physical features of land areas, shorelines and oceans in different parts of the world.

Introduction to the Desert

This site contains a wealth of information on deserts. Topics include desert environment and geology, animal, plants and people. The site also includes a clickable map of deserts in North America.

4. Once students have collected information on their physical feature, distribute construction paper, scissors and glue to each group and have them complete their entries for the encyclopedia, using their worksheets as a guide.

5. Compile each group's work and bind it into one document. Ask for volunteers to create a cover page for the encyclopedia.

Have each group give a brief presentation to the class about the physical feature researched. Encourage students to discuss the characteristics of the feature and to provide examples.


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